Celebration of the World Migratory Bird Day 2011

This year 2011, ACNR in collaboration with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the Rwanda Birding Association (RBA) organized a joint event. With RDB on board this was the first celebration of WMBD on a national level in Rwanda.

The Programme

The celebration of World Migratory Bird Day 2011 in Rwanda had 3 components.
1) A preliminary round table discussion was broadcasted live on Rwanda TV onwmbd_2 Thursday 12th May 2012, featuring
– Mrs Rica Rwigamba, Head of theTourism and ConservationDepartment at RDB to present the standpoint of the government on bird conservation and tourism,
– Mr Serge Nsengimana, ACNR Executive Director to call for conservation of Birds and their habitats in general and migratory birds in particular and
– Mr Davidson Mugisha, President of RBA to talk on behalf of eco-tourism operators in Rwanda.
2) A press release on World Migratory Bird Day 2011 and the events in Rwanda was sent out to prominent media in Rwanda to advertise the celebration. The press release was coordinated by ACNR and RDB.
3) Sunday 15th May 2011 was the day for a big bird watching event, aiming at catching people’s interest in birds and their protection needs while at the same time introducing the newly developed Bugesera Birding Circuit. It brought together more than 100 participants including RDB, ACNR and RBA staff, bird guides, Nature Club students, community members, media, tour operators, some diplomats like the US Ambassador, government officials and general public.

The event was held in Bugesera District, south of Kigali. Participants were assembled in three Birding Groups for different birding sites; one to two guides were available for each group. After birding, participants met at Gashora La Palisse Hotel, for refreshments and short boat rides on Lake Rumira. Speeches were held by the following individuals:
– Davidson Mugisha as MC, as an introduction and information on avi-tourism in Rwanda.
– The Mayor of Bugesera District to welcome the event.
– Bird watching group representatives to talk about their impressions from bird watching.
– An ACNR representative to recite a poem on the World Migratory Bird Day.
– Rica Rwigamba to thank all participants for coming and invite for lunch.

ACNR initiated the creation of a paper bird sculpture. For this purpose every participant received a paper bird to write on it his personal impressions, ideas and wishes concerning WMBD. Afterwards all paper birds were collected and will be hung up in the RDB entrance hall in a shape of big bird, where more than thousand people pass every day, to give the event an even bigger range.
RDB provided logistics for all participants, including transport and refreshments while ACNR provided all necessary information on birds, posters, fact sheets, buttons for all participants etc. Guides and birding materials were shared by all organizing parties.


World Migratory Bird Day 2011 in Rwanda can be called a success. The collaboration of three able institutions substantially increased the range and diversity of the event, despite the time pressure of preparation at the last minute and ACNR’s financial constraints. Feedback from the participants and also the organizing parties was throughout positive, showing that the event had left a mark in people’s minds and will leave them thinking about birds and the threats they face.

Launch of the new canopy walk in Nyungwe National Park

canopy walk

Friday, the 15th of October, the canopy walk in Nyungwe National Park, which is meant to give a new experience to tourists by bringing them to the “eye-to-eye level” with different primate and bird species that are used to live or to breed in the upper scales of the forest and giving them the possibility to have an overwhelming view over a big part of Nyungwe, was inaugurated.

The opening act started at 10.30 am. Speeches were hold by the Head of the section “Tourism and Conservation” at RDB (Rwanda Development Board), Mrs Rica Rwigamba and Mr. Louis Rugiranyange, the Chief Park Warden of Nyungwe National Park. The canopy walk, which is located in the middle of the Igishigishigi trail is the biggest walkway in East Africa which is, at its highest point, situated 90 meters above the ground, which should enable tracking tourists to gain inside of the upper tree levels as well as their inhabitants such as different primates, birds and orchids. The whole process of planning and constructing the canopy walk took at least five years during which there were mainly 25 people constantly involved in the building process. It was mainly financially supported by the US government through USAID and built by Canadian specialists from Green Heart Conservation Society.

The canopy walk is very strong and can support maximum 4 tones.

canopy walk


During the launching ceremony, there were only 12 people, including two guides, allowed to do the canopy walk at one time at one lap. Therefore, the opening acts´ visitors were divided into ten groups. This was necessary in order to make sure that everybody could walk at his own speed and could enjoy his/her first walk on the new building and no one had to hurry. The first group included the Minister of Trade and Industries, Mrs. Monique Nsanzabaganwa, the Chief Operation Officer at RDB, Mrs. Clare Akamanzi, the “Changée d’ Affaires” at USAID/Rwanda Program and other VIPs. 


 We as ACNR staff members (Serge Joram Nsengimana, Executive Director, Dane Beckers [see left picture] and Till Esch [bottom], both German volunteers) were inside the 9th group.

Serge and Dane







By chance, after a walk of 20 minutes toward the canopy walk, we were able to see two blue monkeys playing in the tree tops.

The whole walk, including some stops when our guide was giving information about a special tree species, when we had to wait for people in front of us to finish their turn or when he was giving us instructions on how to behave inside Nyungwe National Park or on the canopy walk, took us about two hours.

It was really a great experience for me and Dane, not just because it was our first time to visit a rainforest but also because we have never been that deep in nature, surrounded by nothing but the fresh air and the tree tops, and we would recommend to everyone visiting Nyungwe National Park and doing the canopy walk.

Are we environmental instructors or English teachers?

Rwanda, now a member of the Commonwealth, has recently abruptly changed its second official language from French to English. One can easily understand that this transition does not work as smoothly in real life as it does on paper, but in the cities one can happily observe the progress. Accordingly the current ACNR education project on climate change was developed in English, but we are prepared to switch to French if students’ understanding requires it. Particularly complicated issues can be explained in Kinyarwanda and usually this strategy works without problems.

Just occasionally we arrive at schools, like the Centre Scholaire de Gaseke in the very remote North of Rwanda, where the French-English transition problem seems to be an embarrassment of riches. Secondary students speak no English at all, very broken French and have difficulties even reading Kinyarwanda.

Coming there to teach climate change we find ourselves in a dilemma: If we carried out the workshop in Kinyarwanda, we would work against the government’s aim to create a bilingual nation. If teachers use the local language only to make their subjects clear, the rural communities will remain disadvantaged.

P1040610On the other hand, if we used English or French to explain the causes and consequences of climate change, our teaching would pass students without reaching their conscience and understanding. The Climate Change Education Program would have no impact where climate change affects people most: in the poorest, agriculturally dominated regions of Rwanda.

This is probably the time to let go of the beautiful picture of a multilingual Rwanda and face the reality: 80% of Rwandans speak Kinyarwanda only. At ACNR we are environmental instructors, not English teachers. Our goal is to get the environmental message across, this is our task and responsibility which we have to work for in all available possibilities. Don’t you think so?

Climate Change Education at Nature Clubs

When the ACNR team arrived back from holding a seminar at ASPESKA Secondary School Karenge (south of Kigali) last Sunday, we were tired and very happy about the day. It was the first of a series of trainings on climate change which ACNR is currently offering for its Nature Clubs and we were once again surprised by the students’ eagerness to learn and to become active for their environment.

The presentation on the causes and consequences of climatic change had to be held under slight difficulties – electricity broke down and our carefully composed PowerPoint presentation went for the birds… – but with lively participation of the club members. Their school is situated in a rural region of Rwanda, where most people live from subsistence farming and will greatly be affected by climate change, just as the ASPESKA students and their families. DSC00442_1Our group work on adaptation strategies for the school and the surrounding communities therefore landed on fertile ground and – despite language problems as many Rwandan students are not yet comfortable in English – produced a lovely creative action plan (see right) for the club.

“Our Environmental Club members need more training, lots of training, so we can learn about our environment, how to protect it and how we can have an impact. If we know many things we can be successful in our club activities.” This is what Jean-Pierre, committee member of the club ‘Amis de la Nature ASPESKA’ told us after the workshop, and with that he is quite right. Environmental Clubs exist in many Rwandan schools but a great part of them is inactive due to insufficient financial means, moral support or – most importantly – knowledge. Jean-Pierre and his club colleagues take part in the current ACNR Nature Club education program. DSC00397_1It involves the trainings on climate change and Nature Club Management as well as environmental art competitions and increased networking efforts between the clubs. All together the project is going to involve around 600 students from primary, secondary and higher education institutions, who will certainly use the chance to make their clubs more effective in nature conservation.

See below some more photos from a recent event at a Primary School Nature Club, the ‘Club Nature Coeur Joyeux’, were children were invited for educative games and a bird drawing competition.


Children playing the Migratory Bird Game


Children drawing

P1030549_1Club Coordinators, ACNR staff and the winners of the competition

Muvumba Gallery forest conservation project

Muvumba river is located in  Nyagatare district of Northern Rwanda. Along its banks the river shelters a relict gallery forest constituted mainly of Acacia kirkii (locally known as IMIKINGA). The Acacia kirkii tree is unique and does not occur anywhere else in the Great Lakes Region. The species is in balance with its environment, tolerates the frequent flooding, and maintains a humid microclimate all year round thus enabling many undergrowth species to survive. It provides habitat for many bird, amphibian and also mammal species. The Rwandan forest law provides for a mandatory 10 meters wide virgin strip to protect the banks of rivers. This is an extraordinary effort to conserve river wetlands but in the case of Muvumba River it is not enough, as the Acacia trees are threatened by extinction. The gallery forest as it stands today is threatened by human activities such as farming, settlement, firewood collection and agriculture.

The ACNR project for the conservation of Muvumba gallery forest is funded by CARPE and will be carried out between August 2009 and August 2010. It aims at enhancing the value and conservation of Muvumba relict forest and at raising awareness on its importance amongst local communities.


Muvumba gallery forest

A new start

Dear readers!

After quite a period of silence on this ACNR (see right) blog, we are now making a new start in publishing the latest news about conservation action in Rwanda.


A fresh team of bloggers, consisting of the ACNR Director Serge, myself – Julia, Till, a new ACNR volunteer arriving from Germany very soon and sporadic guest bloggers, will from now on keep you up to date on ACNR’s projects, extraordinary environmental action and activities in Rwanda and stories from wildlife conservation work.

I hope you enjoy reading, and if you do, please spread the word!

Our environment depends on us!

All my best,


P.S. In the meantime, check out the ACNR homepage: www.acnrwanda.org

An appeal to the world – Kigali has taken part in 350.org and appealed to fair and ambitious climate proceedings

On 24 October 2009 people came together to demonstrate for a reduction of the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere to 350 ppm. People in more than 180 countries participated and at least 5200 events were realized. By many creative performances, attending people climbed mountains, dressed up or designed banners and so all participants supported an appeal to the UN (United Nations) for ambitious and serious climate proceedings in Kopenhagen on 6th December 2009. Photos from these actions can be looked up on the official homepage, 350.org. According to the organization 350.org, some photos shall be printed in important newspapers and will be released to the public.
50 people took part in Kigali, they met up at KIST (Kigali Institute of Science and Technology) one rainy afternoon. The action in Kigali was organized by Landry and Runyambo from ACNR (Association pour la Conservation de la Nature au Rwanda). Before making pictures, Landry gave a short introduction to global climate change and named aims of 350.org.
Photo 1
Photo 2

We have to hope politicans appreciate the engagement by people all around the world and will decide for a progressive, ambitious and faire follow up for the Kyoto protocol. Scientists have investigated that a decrease of the actual 387 ppm CO2 to 350 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere must be achieved to avoid fatal consequences for humans and their environment.

Celebration of World Migratory Bird Day (May 9th – 10th, 2009) in Rwanda

Rwanda on Saturday May 9 joined the rest of the world to mark World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD), with a big turn up of bird watchers. The celebration was organized by the Association for the Conservation of Nature in Rwanda, (ACNR), the BirdLife Partner in Rwanda, in collaboration with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB). The highlight of the celebration marked under the theme, “Barriers to Migration” was bird watching excursion at a man-made Lake in Nyarutarama, on the outskirts of Kigali City.

Similar, on May 10th, 2009, bird watching excursion was carried out at Lake Rumira in Bugesera District in eastern Rwanda. This area is probably expected to be a habitat for migratory waterbirds in Rwanda.

Birdwatching with birdlovers and nature club “Coeur joyeux”

Over 100 people attended the event including pupils and teachers from school Wildlife Club called “Coeur Joyeux” drawn from Anglican Church located near Kigali City Park, the representatives from some nature clubs affiliated to ACNR such as “Rwanda University Club for Conservation of Biodiversity (RUCCB)”, “Amis Muyaga” from ASPESKA College, journalists from print and broadcast, etc…

During this celebration the “Coeur Joyeux” Wildlife Clubs played a sketch demonstrating local barriers to migratory birds in Rwanda including intensify agriculture activities, wetlands drainage and other activities related to ecosystems disturbance, etc.


This awareness campaign was to protect migratory birds and their habitats. Annually, on the second weekend of May, people around the world organise public events such as bird festivals, education programmes and birdwatching excursions as part of activities to mark the World Migratory Bird Day. “This campaign had a major impact on how Rwandans perceive migratory birds and it has the potential to unite many different communities to rise against buriers met by migratory birds and humanitarian perils facing them today,” he added. Meanwhile, Birdlife International has launched a new programme called “Born to Travel Campaign” aimed at protecting migratory birds along the African-Eurasian flyway.

Also, this event has attracted more teams and spectators than ever before, including both government institutions, local NGO’s working in wildlife conservation and private sector. There has been a considerable effort to get more teams, including females and males, to participate, in the events. As this event has started to produce a significant contest of skills, awareness and friendship, we hope that the campaign will involve more people for the protection of birds and biodiversity in general in Rwanda. Actually, this year saw the arrival of several new teams of Kigali birdlovers.


Waterbirds of Rweru

African Fish Eagles

Theogene, Serge, Mark, Fanny and Runyambo

The ACNR team set out to conduct a waterbird assessment in Lake Rweru. The team included Mark, Runyambo, Theogene, Fanny and Serge. It was an exciting academic adventure. We waded in the waters watched the wonderful birds and did a lot of counts.

White winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus

Don’t Forget this Treasure-Albertine Rift

The old wise men from my ancestral community say “however faster you run, you can never be faster than your mother; the stones that support her cooking pot will always call you back” The Albertine rift now remains a source of sweet, important essentials for both humans and nature. These goods are in the form of the ecosystem services that are supplied from the abundance and variety of the Albertine rift resources.


Stepe Buzzard                                                                                                                 Red Backed Shrike

As you may realize, the “Albertine Rift Birds” have been silent for some time. Just like all birds, they had migrated briefly but in unusual way! I too followed them. Where “we were and what we did will come in the subsequent blogs! But for now, I just wish to tell you we are back!

Masumi and Victor have escorted me to Rwanda via Uganda. The journey had a number of exciting things but did not miss challenges. We went through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Institute of Tropical Forestry Research Centre at Ruhija where we spent the last night in Uganda. If you have not been here, please purpose to before the end of the “forest” (or is it world). It is a wonderful place in many ways. As we came down from Ruhija research station, we clearly show the tips of Muvura, Murabura, Karisimbi and Sabinyo mountains. From the local people, Sabinyo means an old man’s teeth. It is the most beautiful mountain with a number of crater lakes at the top. There is no better way to understand why this beautiful country is called the “pearl of Africa”.

Victor, Masumi and Enoch, Albertine rift support team                Habib, our Cab Driver

Habib, our taxi driver managed to drive us safely down the mountain to Kabale and to the Uganda-Rwanda Border. In the country of a thousand hills, we spent a week meeting various conservation organizations who are prospective partners with WildlifeDirect. The ACNR team was already out at Lake Rweru on a waterbird monitoring excercise.