Wilderness Safaris and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International have joined forces to expand Bisate’s pioneering reforestation programme in Rwanda with the creation of the new indigenous ‘Karisoke Forest’.
Previously a eucalyptus plantation, the site has now been cleared and boasts more than 160 indigenous Hagenia tree saplings which have been planted to date by over 130 staff members from the Fossey Fund. This first phase will be followed by bi-annual plantings into the future.
This collaboration of like-minded and passionate conservationists, many of whom come from the surrounding rural community, will become a living monument to all who visit that habitats and biodiversity can be restored.
As Wilderness Safaris Chief Marketing Officer, Chris Roche, says, “Undoubtedly the biggest driver behind why we developed Bisate was to provide a ‘proof of concept’ that indigenous reforestation and habitat expansion around Volcanoes National Park is possible, and that this has to be a consideration for long-term mountain gorilla conservation”.
Through 2017 and the first half of 2018, Wilderness Safaris planted nearly 20 000 indigenous trees on a 42-hectare piece of land at Bisate, adjacent to the park.
“Rather than just planting trees and watching the restoration of the site ourselves”, Chris added, “we wanted to engage a larger community than our own staff and guests and were therefore delighted to develop a partnership with the Fossey Fund to establish the ‘Karisoke Forest’ on part of our reforestation plot. What better organisation to embody the long-term significance of this project for gorillas, and also – through the involvement of their many staff from the Bisate area, and their engagement with local schools – to gently awaken the broader rural community, especially the local school children with whom Wilderness Safaris and the Fossey Fund jointly work, to the social, environmental and even economic benefits of restoration”.
To date, each member of the Fossey Fund team has planted a sapling from the Bisate nursery in the new ‘Karisoke Forest’.
“The team from the Fossey Fund’s Karisoke Research Centre is honoured to be part of this reforestation effort,” says Felix Ndagijimana, Director of Karisoke and the Fossey Fund’s Rwanda programmes. “It is important not only for ecological reasons but also for the larger impact on the Bisate community. Bisate holds a special place in the Fossey Fund’s 50-plus years of mountain gorilla conservation, and the ‘Karisoke Forest’ will be a great complement to our work both inside and outside the park,” he adds.
“This type of reforestation helps biodiversity greatly, providing additional habitat for birds, invertebrates, small mammals and pollinators that once lived on this land, helping to restore important forest habitat that has been reduced over the years”, adds Dr Tara Stoinski, President and CEO/Chief Scientific Officer of the Fossey Fund. “We are delighted to be working with Wilderness Safaris on this reforestation project and to continue driving habitat restoration and gorilla conservation in Rwanda”.