Mountain gorillas in Virunga Massif

The Greater Virunga Landscape incorporates Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda; and Kibale Conservation Area, Queen Elizabeth Conservation Area, and Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Area in Uganda.

Speaking to The Sunday Times on Thursday, shortly after the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (GVTC) meeting, Pasteur Gosma Wilungula, the Chairman of GVTC said poaching at Virunga was becoming a serious concern to the countries.

“We have resolved to enhance on our joint patrols in the park by removing all the snares put by poachers,” he said.

Wilungula is also the Director General of Institut Congolais Pour La Coservation de la Nature.

His remarks follow the recent two grisly discoveries where park rangers within the Greater Virunga Landscape discovered the bodies of a mountain gorilla killed by a poacher’s snare as well as that of an elephant.

The deadly act by unknown assailants has put the spotlight on poaching that had greatly declined in the area.

“The problem of poaching at this moment is a serious threat because the sale of ivory is very high; so many poachers are killing the elephants to get ivory,” he revealed.

Rica Rwigamba, the Head of Tourism and Conservation at Rwanda Development Board (RDB), said that, joint patrols to remove all the traps that can harm wildlife is one of the solutions to stop poaching in Virunga.

“Recently, we conducted joint patrols between the Rwanda and DR Congo border where we had about 26 rangers from two countries and they removed about 26 snares. We are continuing this process and we are going to increase on our communications among the three countries that share the Greater Virunga Landscape,” she explained.

Rwigamba added that in order to enhance on their collaboration, all the three countries are going to sign a treaty that governs GVTC.

According to Dr. Andrew Seguya, the Executive Director of Uganda Wild Life Authority, poaching in Virunga will only be dealt with by having strong joint patrols between different borders of GVTC.

“We are promoting the economic livelihoods of the surrounding communities of the parks so that people turn away from poaching activities, “he said.

Seguya mentioned that the activities include giving clean water to surrounding people who normally go to the park to look for water and end up indulging themselves in poaching.

The Transboundary core secretariat is organised twice a year to discuss different activities and other businesses carried out in GVTC.

By Frank Kanyesigye, The New Times

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