Eugene Rutagarama

Almost five years have passed since I had left PCFN. Duringthese last years, violent events had affected my life, my family and mycountry. I was feeling angry but full of energy. When appointed to lead the PCFN,I took this nomination as an opportunity to diffuse both, my angriness and myenergy. Actually, memories of the excitement I have had during the few years Ihad spent there were still fresh in my mind. Luckily, I found in Nyungwe mostof assistants I had worked with: Anastase Semana, Pierre Hashakimana, Kajangwe,and so on. The scope of the work had expanded though. Besides the developmentof tourism attractions with the habituation of primates and the design andmaintenance of forest trails, there was a significant research component on forestregeneration and tree phenology. But during those years of weak governance inRwanda consecutive to the transition from a former to a new government, there wasa need to secure the forest against illegal encroachment and poachers. The mostcrucial task was however to ensure that the conservation of this vital forestremains on the agenda of the new leadership of the country.

From October 1995 to March 1997, I was at all these fronts.I held tens of meeting and discussion with military and civilian authorities and local communities around the forest convincing them of the importance of the forest and highlighting their respective roles in its protection. I covered hundred hectares of forest with my team of rangers hunting down forest illegal users and we collected thousands of snares that would have killed many wild animals.

This period coincides with the insurgency of militia of the former government in the southwest of Rwanda. I can’t forget a day when my assistants reported to me that Kajangwe, a loyal field assistant had been abducted by the militia. Together with my staff we lived hours of stressful anxiety until Kajangwe came back safe after having escaped his militia guards.

Despite this context of insecurity and physical threats, lived moments of amazing excitement while watching and monitoring monkeys:colobus, blue monkeys and mangabey. For example I watched live a wonderful scene of a herd of colubus gathering around a mother that has delivered a beautiful whitish baby that morning. I stayed hours watching a wildlife behavior which was strangely similar to that of human being.

I was proud of my successor Dr Michel Masozera when he led the process of elevating the Nyungwe forest to a national park status. I am confident that this status will secure a watershed that is vital to both of us,human being and wildlife of this region.


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