Helping National Parks in Africa
The Fossey Fund helps national parks that are home to gorillas and other important species in Rwanda and Congo through direct protection and offering training and educational opportunities to African conservationists. We work with park guards, wildlife managers and other African conservationists so that they can make the best decisions about the long-term management of their wildlife and the forests where they live.
Direct gorilla protection in Volcanoes National Park
In Rwanda, our trackers and anti-poaching teams work closely with the Rwandan national park authorities to protect the Rwandan portion of the mountain gorilla’s habitat, in Volcanoes National Park. This involves daily monitoring of the gorillas that are designated for study purposes, as well as more widespread anti-poaching activities, such as removing snares set for wildlife and collecting information on the location of illegal activities in the park, such as cattle grazing and firewood collection. All illegal activity data are entered into the park management database each month to guide park management decisions.
Karisoke's anti-poaching team, alongside staff from the national parks authority, provides added protection for mountain gorillas living deep in the forest. Team members set up campsites from which they jointly patrol Volcanoes National Park for extended periods of time. The location of the camp and team members are kept secret and changed frequently, enabling them to catch the poachers off-guard. Working closely with Rwandan authorities, and trusted by the communities in which they live and work, the Karisoke™ anti-poaching teams play a leading role in gathering the intelligence needed to catch poachers and those engaged in animal trafficking.
Capacity building for staff at national parks
In both countries where we work, we have conducted training programs and workshops for the national parks staff to enhance their ability to protect threatened and endangered species and their ecosystems. The training covers all aspects of the parks and their conservation, including general conservation issues, primate ecology and behavior, and botany. In Rwanda, we have also developed training manuals for tourist guides and trackers on these topics to ensure these conservationists are equipped with the latest research to further improve their knowledge and the quality of the tourist experiences they provide.
The Karisoke Research Center also supervises students from the National University of Rwanda who are conducting research in Volcanoes National Park that is shared with the park and wildlife authorities to help them with park management and conservation planning. The Fossey Fund has also trained park rangers in Maiko National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the northern sector of the Grauer's gorilla's range.
Providing information on gorillas and other species in the park
The Fossey Fund has created a long-term database which includes over 45 years of observation of mountain gorilla behavior and ecology, and information on approximately 1,000 species of plants and animals found in Volcanoes National Park. This database is shared with the national park service. It is currently being upgraded, with input from park management and other partners, to become a searchable global information source.
The data sets include information on gorilla behavior, demography, ranging patterns, interactions between groups, injuries and illegal activities in the park, as well as photographs, videos and intermittent meteorological data, especially about rainfall patterns. More recent data collection activities have focused on biodiversity within the park, including census data on other mammals, birds, and vegetation; behavioral ecology of the endemic golden monkey; gorilla personalities and hormone patterns; evaluations of local conservation education; and ecosystem health, including that of the human communities surrounding the park.