Research in and around Rwanda’s National Parks Symposium

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In partnership with the Center of Excellence in Biodiversity and Natural Resources Management, RDB organized the 1ST Rwanda National Parks Research Symposium held at Lemigo Hotel, Kigali, on 12-13 December 2017. During this symposium which brought together more than 60 researchers from different institutions in Rwanda, participants discussed research results conducted in at least one of four National Parks in Rwanda. Parks are the main tool we have today to protect biodiversity on our planet. Rwanda has four national parks representing unique ecosystems and biodiversity; these parks are also integral to Rwanda’s tourism economy. The parks are moreover subject to intense pressures from the communities living adjacent to the park boundaries, as well as from external drivers.

Group photo during the symposium                                                               Photo: RDB 

This symposium, organized by Rwanda Development Board (RDB) together with the Center of Excellence in Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management, was an opportunity for researchers, both seasoned scientists and young researchers, to present research findings in an open, collaborative atmosphere. Researchers with studies on ecosystems, landscapes, plants and animals, threats, socio-economic issues, and people within and around one of the four national parks of Rwanda submitted and presented their abstracts. Objectives of the symposium were to 1) provide a platform for park management to learn about research results and application to park management issues, 2) improve biodiversity conservation and tourist experiences through research, 3) help make parks more effective, reduce conflicts between people and parks/wildlife, and contribute to wellbeing of communities around national parks through research results, and 4) foster greater collaboration among researchers, and between researchers and park staff to support RDB.

One of the most interesting topics discussed during the symposium is the one presented by Hirwa Jean Paul from the Karisoke Research Center (KRC) titled: Mountain Gorilla Then and Now: Understanding Intrapopulation Variability.  It was revealed that more groups of Mountain Gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park were formed in the last nine years while the population stayed almost stable. Another striking observation is that the infant mortality per year increased from 24% in the 1980S to 60% in 2016.

One group during group discussion                                                                                 Photo: RDB

In the closing afternoon, participants were separated in five groups to discuss different topics related to bridging the gap between research and policy, improving the relationship between researchers and park managers and exploring gaps in biodiversity conservation research.

Participants revealed that enhancing indigenous species, continuous monitoring of different conservation parameters, favouring the inter-agency research teams and improve research communication to policy can yield tremendous benefit to park management.