BY Annonciata BYUKUSENGE
Some residents around of Nyungwe National Park say they were former poachers but now they understand the importance of biodiversity conservation and are now advocates for the biodiversity conservation campaign in community as told to Rwandanews24.
Nyungwe National Park is located in Southern Province, Nyamagabe district. The formers poachers are the residents of Nyamagabe district, Uwinkingi sector in Rugeti Cell.
Emmanuel Cyondi is a 55-year-old man. He says he has been kidnapping animals for more than 10 years on the outskirts of Nyungwe National Park, because from 2007 to 2019 he was poacher.
“I used to hunt animals include Kobs, The duiker, l’hoest’s monkey and more for meat because I grew up in my home and I didn’t eat beef, but my parents were hunters and I ate wildlife all time,” said Cyondi.
Cyondi and other residents were poachers now are in conservation group called Umurava, one of groups from the Biodiversity Conservation Cooperatives (Union des Coopératives Agricoles Intégrées/ UNICOOPAGI).
How former poacher Cyondi Emmanuel became a wildlife activist?
Cyondi became a wildlife activist after the campaign of women who are committed to protecting the biodiversity species in Uwinkingi sector, Nyamagabe district.
“These women are the ones who go around raising awareness about the importance of protecting the environment and biodiversity. Some of my neighbors already knew that I was hunting animals in Nyungwe and that is why they approached me and told me about the negative impact. I stopped poaching and will no longer hunt for animals,” he declared.
He said that it requires strategies to eliminate poaching in Nyungwe Park and its environs.
“In 2018, the women who decided to protect wildlife came to me at home and told me that what I was doing – hunting animals in the forest for meat was illegal,” he said.
He said that although it took time for him, he later changed to the extent of reporting other poachers who try to hunt in the park. “I alert local authorities and security organs so the hunters are arrested, prosecuted and punished by the law,” he noted.
Cyondi stated that after realizing the importance of biodiversity conservation, he has joined efforts to form UMURAVA group, but he need support to gain capacity building in mobilizing other people still participate in poaching activities shift to participate in environmental conservation programmes.
“Getting out of the wild is a journey, because if a person is accustomed to eating meat 4 times a week and sees that he can let it go for 2 weeks before eating meat, you will find it difficult to accept it.” Said Cyondi.
Kevine Dusengimana, 26, is woman committed to the conservation of biodiversity species. She says the community has to play a role in tracking down the poachers. In Umurava group, we are 25 women and 5 men.
Most poached wild animals include deer, Kobs, The duiker (locally known as Ifumberi), l’hoest’s monkey (locally known as Icyondi) among others. “As women, we are determined to fight against poachers and we will continue to campaign in other parts of our country as we have understood that biodiversity plays an important role in our lives,” Ms Dusengimana added.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Biodiversity Conservation Organization (BIOCOOR), Dr. Ange Imanishimwe says, it supports former poachers in the conservation programmes despite the fact that some are yet to understand that they can benefit economically from biodiversity.
“The challenge affecting men’s (poachers) participation in biodiversity programmes is that many people have not yet understood the importance of biodiversity, especially some husbands of the women participate in this program, because they do not have enough information regarding the same. But we will help them to campaign and initiate talks with men so that they let their wives participate in this programme,” said Dr Imanishimwe.
The conservation expert also pointed out the need to engage men to support the participation of women in biodiversity conservation. This is because if the men understand and support efforts by women in biodiversity conservation, they would ensure that these measures will be accepted in the community. This inclusive approach would also tackle the root causes of gender inequalities. It would also create awareness thus resulting in long-term benefits for the whole community and the country.
According to the draft legislation, a person convicted for removing animal species from their habitat, harming, transporting, or hawking them is liable to a term of imprisonment of between six months and two years and a fine of not less than Rwf500,000, but not more than Rwf1 million.
In case it’s committed against endangered species, the jail time increased to between three and five years while the fine is between Rwf2 million and Rwf5 million.
The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 is dedicated to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss” and indeed Rwandan women around Nyungwe National Park are not left behind.