The Gishwati Forest 'eco-guards' Photograph: Will Chesser
Forest or people? One woman trying to save both in Rwanda
25th August, 2009
On the one side stand half a million poor farmers, desperate to find land for more crops. On the other, a patch of once-extensive forest that is the area's ecological lynchpin. In between, one woman
Madeleine Nyiratuza has an unenviable job. As programme coordinator for the Gishwati Conservation Project, it's up to her to convince half a million subsistence farmers that 15 chimpanzees stranded in a clump of trees that used to be Rwanda's second-largest forest are worth saving.
Starving farmers and their families, living on the edge – literally and figuratively – have targeted the chimps as obstacles to their own survival. In response, the Gishwati Conservation Project has been forced to set up border controls around the forest, and is also trying to create a 30-mile corridor down to the Nyungwe National Park, which would reunite the chimps with a protected population there.
It's safe to say the region sees an uneasy relationship between man and his evolutionary ancestors.
In a country desperate for tourist dollars, primates provide the biggest draw. More than 20,000 visitors come every year to see the mountain gorillas of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, made famous by the movie Gorillas in the Mist.
Created in 1925, Volcanoes was Africa’s first national park. When Rwanda gained independence from Belgium in...
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