Amy Vedder

In the mid-1980s, Nyungwe held strong allure for me as a biologist: such a large rich forest, in good condition, filled with untold numbers of bird and primate species.  A forest with much left to be discovered - with mysteries yet to be solved.  As a conservationist, italso called me to action.  Nyungwe's status as forest reserve was not being upheld: its buffalo gone and elephants down to a handful, colobus skins being sold in Butare and Kigali shops, tree cutters and gold miners working throughout, two market centers established in the forest despite regulations to the contrary, and clear water streams turning to brown.  Soit was with a sense of wonder and urgency that I approached the forest's conservation.  

 

The early days of walking long transects up and down formidable muddy slopes came with the reward of seeing new plants, trail signs of duiker and chimps, an abundance of monkeys, and the unimaginable count of350 colobus in a single, stable family group (unknown for tree-living primates anywhere in the world).  They also came with keen interest demonstrated bythe national park service to protect the entire system - the institution's first real foray into conservation beyond the two existing national parks.  Together we dreamed that Nyungwe could be conserved, yet also generate revenue through tourism and provide essential services of water and soil conservation for the thousands of people living along its borders.  Those dreams required great effort, with ups and downs, over many years: strong policies and enforcement to control illegal activities, garnering of international financial support to jumpstart the work, creation of a new national park, marketing of tourist opportunities beyond the aura of gorillas, and educational and financial outreach to surrounding communities.  Yet these dreams are now being fulfilled by the concerted action of many, many dedicated people from government, NGO, and local communities.  My congratulations, and my hopethat the challenges of the present and future continue to be met with the long-term vision and commitment that have sustained the wonder and wildness that Nyungwe offers Rwanda and the world.

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