Endangered Chimpanzees Could Get Respite In Rwandan 'Forest of Hope'

Though much of the talk at last week's Clinton Global Initiative meeting was about improving the lives of our fellow human beings, Rwandan president Paul Kagame was in attendance, seeking support for a historic conservation corridor in his country, which it is hoped will provide relief for endangered chimpanzees in the region. The Gishwati Area Conservation Program is being promoted in conjunction with the Great Ape Trust of Iowa and Earthpark is being billed as a "forest of hope". This is what it's all about:
The Gishwati Area Conservation Program, announced at last year's CGI meeting, is a 30-mile long conservation and economic development corridor in the west of Rwanda connecting the Gishwati Forest to the Mukura Forest and the Nyungwe National Park. The forest restoration and ecological research being undertaken in the area is expected to cost $5 million over the next 10 years.

Water Quality Improved, Habitat Rehabilitated
According to the Great Ape Trust, there are myriad benefits to the project:

[It] will reduce poverty's threat to conservation by improving water quality, controlling floods, promoting ecotourism and enhancing local employment. The project will also develop a chimpanzee field study site that includes planting a 30-mile (50km) tree corridor to connect the Gishwati Forest Reserve, the chimpanzees' home range, to Nyungwe National Park in southwest Rwanda.

In praising the project President Kagame had this to say:

We are creating a 'forest of hope' that transcends the restoration of biodiversity — it is about the people of Gishwati and improving their lives in harmony with nature. We are determined to reverse the history of human-induced environmental abuse in the Gishwati area, and this program is an opportunity for members of the global community to build partnerships with Rwanda and address these important challenges.

At nearly 400 square miles in size, the Gishwati Forest was formerly Rwanda's second largest forest. It was largely cleared for agriculture in the 1980s, and was further deforested during the civil war and genocide there in the 1990s.

:: Great Ape Trust
All images: © Great Ape Trust
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Tags: Conservation | Deforestation | Endangered Species | Rwanda