22 Feb 2008 - Borders will matter less to central Africa's mountain gorillas, following the launch of a strategic conservation plan and an associated project which covers adjoining areas of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
There are only about 720 gorillas left in the tropical mountain forests shared by the three countries, the Central Albertine Rift Area Network. The gorillas' natural habitat is threatened by the destruction of these forests and the great apes themselves are victims of poachers.
Protected area authorities of the three countries launched their 10-year Transboundary Strategic Plan for the Central Albertine Rift Protected Area Network on 20 February 2008 in Kampala.
The project is part of the 10-year strategic plan developed by the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), the Office Rwandais du Tourisme et des Parcs Nationaux (ORTPN) and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), and is supported by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP). IGCP is a coalition of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), and Fauna & Flora International (FFI). The project secretariat is to be hosted by IGCP.
Also launched was a 4 million euro transboundary conservation project funded by the Dutch Government through the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Kigali Rwanda.
The new transboundary strategic plan aims to improve community livelihoods and contribute to the stability of the region. It will also assist in strengthening and making similar the three countries's policies and laws on the conservation and management of the protected areas.
"This is an exciting development", said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF International's Species Programme. "We applaud this tremendous contribution of the government and people of the Netherlands, which recognizes that species conservation and sustainable development and poverty alleviation go hand in hand."
Saving the endangered mountain gorillas of Africa will be a key component of the 4-year project.
Mountain gorillas are the main tourist attraction in Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, earning these countries about US$ 5 million every year, and are thus a critical element of livelihood programmes in the region for local communities.
WWF joins the chief executives of the three partner organizations (ICCN, ORTPN, and UWA) in calling for enhanced political support from their respective governments.