Category Archives: Birds

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.

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

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.


Lake likely to lose her Biodiversity Secrets

Local knowledge is very important. In most cases it is simple and cheap to get but is often not regarded with the seriousness it deserves. Lake kivu is one such area that has not lost her legendary and biodiversity secrets. This is the public knowledge that is half the truth and most people pretend not to know while those who think they know assume it is a secret that others don’t know!

Lake Kivu

Most of this secrets are about the formation and hence nature of the lake. Lake Kivu was formed after man had been around for sometime. There lived a king who had many wives. The youngest wife, by the name Nyiransibura happened to be naughty and disrespectiful to the king. One day, when it was Nyiransibura’s turn to serve the King, she refused and the King decided to beat her up. She ran away and as the King tried to chase her, she dropped a tin in which she collected her urine and usaully carried wherever she went. The urine spilled all over creating a barrier between her and the king. The urine did not dry up but became a big lake, the current Lake Kivu. I think I don’t doubt this legend-the lake is unique with a lot of methane and carbon dioxide. Even under conditions of bubling methane gas, some fish species still exist!

Science will tell us otherwise. But science alone has not been able to conserve the lake and its biodiversity as traditional and cultural beliefs did for many years. According to Professor Robert Hecky (University of Michigan), lake Kivu is one of the most dangerous lakes in Africa due to their “lake overturn” tendencies. The lake contains large amounts of carbon dioxide and hence likely to overturn. During a lake overturn, all creatures in the lake will be wiped out and huge deposits of vegetation will be swept into the lake. This has not happened for lake Kivu despite all the pre-disposing factors. Unlike Nyos and Monoun lakes in Cameroon, which also have a lot of carbon dioxide and overturned recently, Lake Kivu is far much bigger (more than 2000 times lake Nyos). The Nyiragongo Volcanic mountain erupted in 2002 throwing a lot of lava into lake Kivu. This would most likely displace the carbon and cause an overturn but it fortunately didn’t.

People whose livelihoods depend directly on the lake.

“Their lack of appropriate information is a major threat to Biodiversity”

Apart from these natural threats, the Lake Kivu area has lot biodiversity secrets. It has 26 fish species It is a breeding haven for many bird species. Most of breeding areas are on the same islands and peninsula. Traditionally, people were never allowed to live or do undertake any economic activities on these small islands. But now, there are people constructing houses and farming on the Islands. The traditional governments (chiefdoms) were able to enforce the legislation against this kind of encroachment but the modern government has failed. People had a way of respecting and benefiting from nature then but now people destroy nature through overexploitation and habitat destruction. There have been businessmen who have been licensed to construct tourist hotels on the shores of the lake and this work is clearing the important habitats for birds around the lake.

A tourist hotel under construction on shores of lake Kivu

One of the birds that are threatened here is the Grey crowned cranes (balearica regurolum). This bird is celebrated as a national symbol in Uganda. In Kenya it is taboo to touch it. In Rwanda, people are catching the cranes from the wild and keeping them at home as pets. At home they never breed! Around Lake Kivu, the bird is a major trade commodity. There is a breed of poachers who now catch the Cranes and sell them to people who eat them. According to ACNR recent survey, an adult crane is costing about RwF 50,000 (about $ 100.00). A young one goes for RwF 20,000.00. The practice of domesticating grey crowned cranes is rampant throughout Rwanda and if not stopped, the bird species may disappear completely.

This frustrated crane is one of the many domesticated ones in Kigali

ACNR has started advocating for the release of any captive cranes into the wild and a stop to their hunting for commercial purposes. This will be supported by the many nature clubs and site support groups they are helping establish and support around the country. The Saint Marie secondary school nature clubs is on the shores of Lake Kivu and ACNR is requesting for support from all stakeholders (community members, Conservation NGOs, well wishers and the Government) Enoch, Mark, Claude and Theoneste of ACNR were here a few weeks ago talking to the students and the school adminsitration with a vies to create awareness amongst the students. There is an urgent need for follow-up visits to strengthen the capacity of the nature club in conserving this important habitat.

Introducing ACNR Rwanda

Here comes Enoch Ontiri, Introducing conservation work in Rwanda.

The Kisii highlands are beautiful to look and very nice to visit and even stay. The whole of Kenya where I grew up is just fantastic. But all these did not stop me from going to Papua New Guinea where to work in nature conservation. I volunteered with VSO, attached to a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) project. I had to extend my stay there for another one year for many reasons. The transfly wetlands in Papua New Guinea are great habitat with rich biodiversity. The culture of the people there is very interesting too. Conservation work is just but trying to protect the largely intact natural habitats. I am sure I will go back many years in future and see much of the nature intact and most people’s live much improved, courtesy of WWF’s work and ongoing commitment to support communities to conserve their resources.

Now, let me take you to Rwanda, a country of a thousand hills….

In the rural areas of Rwanda, people are struggling to get their daily bread from their immediate surrounding! In a country that is recovering from the worst calamities, the 1994 genocide and the after mats, people are faced with serious challenges of poverty but most important, lack of appropriate information.

Rwanda is a small country in East Africa measuring 26,338 square kilometers with a human population of about 10 million. 47 % of the land is used for agricultural purposes, 18% pasture and 22% is forest. Within this classification of forests fall the national parks and nature parks of Nyungwe, Akagera and Volcanoes. The national parks are home to Antelopes, Zebras, Buffalos, Giraffes, Golden monkeys, Chimpanzees, mountain Gorillas, Golden cats, giant forest hog, duiker, and sitatunga among others. There are about 670 recorded species of birds also. The country has some of the major wetlands forming part of the source of the river Nile.

The country, popularly known as “country of a thousand hills” is faced with very complex environment and natural resource conservation challenges. The greatest component of the challenges is the high ever increasing human population. The population growth rate is the highest in the region and there are also a big number of returnees who the government has to provide for. There have been a number of attempts to convert the forest land into farming/human settlements in the recent years. The hilly landscapes are fast loosing the top soil layer through erosion. This is aggravated by overstocking and poor cultivation methods. It is so bad because many people here don’t realize that Environmental challenges both underpin and define all aspects of human development, from economic development to health to food security.

Tomorrow, I will tell you about Association Pour conservation du la Nature au Rwanda, the organisation that I work with.