– New revelations point to the ‘return of birds’ to Kigali, and potentially turning Rwanda’s capital into a world bird viewing destination.
John Cassim/Johnson Kanamugire
KIGALI, RWANDA – The capital city of Rwanda, Kigali, has recently seen a rise in the number of birds, which conservationists say could position ‘Africa’s Most Clean City’ into a world bird tourism destination.
The East African country’s capital, boasts of having 250 bird species according to a new book titled ‘Falling for the Birds of Kigali’ written by Will Wilson, a Kigali based wildlife photographer.
The book talks of the return of bird species such as the coucals, sparrows, small birds of prey, robin-chats or mousebird, black kites, doves, white-rumped swift and owls.
Most of the common sighted birds in Kigali had disappeared owing to the human activities that destroyed bird habitat in urban wetlands.
Construction of garages, petrol stations, industrial establishments and warehouses, fomented disaster not just for birds but other animal species too.
This equally created trouble that was waiting to happen to thousands of city dwellers as garages, petrol stations and industries were responsible for oil spills and untreated industrial waste whose real effects are yet to be documented.
Birds were quickly replaced by noisy and polluting vehicles after years of encroachment on urban wetlands that hosted bushes and trees used by these birds, as home and source of basic survival.
Pollution was further worsened by infamous polythene bags that flooded the retail market and whose manufacture, import, sale and use has since been banned.
Until the enactment of the 2005 Environment Act that outlawed all polluting activities on wetlands, commercial and residential settlements mushroomed on critical ecological ecosystems across valleys of the capital from Gikondo, Mulindi, Gatsata, Nyabugogo and Kinamba.
– book revelation
Wilson’s book has revealed ecological information that of late has stirred some excitement among Kigali based conservationists, about the return of birds to Kigali and the transformation of the city to a world bird viewing destination.
In his book Wilson suggests there are now many places’ people can now watch and photograph birds.
Wilson is a former British military officer for 20 years but turned his shooting skills in the battle front to that of using his camera to photograph birds in flight.
“There are over 250 bird species in Kigali alone,” Wilson said, while adding, “it says a lot about the conservation and wetland restoration work being done in Rwanda, and in particular the rehabilitation of Nyandungu which is now an Ecotourism Park in the outskirts Kicukiro District.”
“Birds are an indicator of a healthy environment because when Nyandungu was rehabilitated, all the birds that had left, returned.
The restoration of the park entailed re-introduction of plants and trees that created the conducive environment for wildlife, you can only see birds for now as other wildlife species are still hiding,” said Wilson.
– Nyandungu ecological park
Nyandungu is a 121-hectare park which took six years to restore and was officially opened to the public on July 18 2022, on the sidelines of the Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC).
Rwanda Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente, officially launched Nyandungu Eco-Tourism Park, a major milestone for Rwanda’s conservation effort, according to officials.
This urban wetland was transformed from a degraded wetland to an educational and recreational facility that has today seen the return of birds.
“But as much as the tourism income is vital for Rwanda, this is not what primarily drives us in our conservation efforts, we are driven by the fact that conservation of biodiversity and sustaining our ecosystem are key enablers in promoting green and sustainable development,” the Prime Minister said during the launch, last year.
The Park that was completed at the cost of $ 450 million, has a medicinal garden, a Pope’s Garden, five catchment ponds, three recreation ponds, an information centre, restaurant and 10 kilometers of walkaways and bicycles lanes.
With 70 hectares of restored wetland and 50 hectares of forest, the park is home to more than 62 local plant species and over 100 bird species.
At least 17,000 trees were planted in the park.
Rwanda has allocated 37.7 per cent of its land to conservation activities in part to maximize the economic benefits of nature-rich sites.
The Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) which was taking place in Kigali then, also discussed sustainable financing for protected areas including parks.
Over 1,200 national parks are in Africa although most of them are not well managed due to financing gaps hence the establishment of A-PACT.
A Pan African Conservation Trust (A-PACT) is a solution for creating sustainable finance mechanisms for over 8,600 Africa’s Protected and Conserved Area network and systems.
The A-PACT concept emerged through preparations for the IUCN African Protected Areas Congress held in Kigali last year, in response to the challenges that protected and conserved areas of all kinds face.
“Securing sustained and sufficient financing for operations, particularly in the face of the abrupt downturn of revenues from tourism that accompanied the global lockdowns to address COVID-19 health risks,” Fred Kumah Kwame, Vice President of the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) said during the launch of the trust.
Johnson Kanamugire – is Editor of The Rwanda Post (www.therwandapost.com)