Uganda, Rwanda, DRC sign 10-year gorilla protection pact, increase tracking levy

Kampala- Uganda (PANA) -- Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) h ave agreed to undertake a 10-year joint protection programme of rare mountain go r illas that roam the three countries' jungle borders.
The three countries that separately engaged in war during the late 1990’s furthe r agreed to impose US$ 500 a day tracking permit.
"For the first time, the three countries have decided to protect the great apes which are threatened with extinction and insecurity in the region," said Moses M a pesa, the head of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), at a news conference in K a mpala Wednesday.
His Rwandan counterpart, Rosette Rugamba, said identified restive eastern DR Con go is a hotbed of militia groups, some of which have been accused of hunting mou n tain gorillas, whose population is less than 800 and are all found in the region choked by instability, characterized by vicious wars.
"It’s a 10-year trans-boundary strategic plan which entails identifying groups a nd communities which affect the life of the precious primates in the Virunga are a and directly address encroachment and poaching," Rugamba told journalists.
“The first four years of the plan, costing 4.
1 million euro (US$ 6.
03 million), is being funded by the Dutch government,” she added.
The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, located 300 kilometers west of Ugandan capital, Kampala, is the only natural habitation for the primates, which scientists say a r e man’s nearest cousins.
Another 250 are thought to roam on the Rwandan side of the border, while a small er number are in the DR Congo’s Virunga mountain, where wildlife officials say a t least 10 were killed last year.
Gorilla numbers across the region fell to a low of about 370 in the 1980s, only recovered as the three countries renewed diplomatic relations, aimed at ensuring better conservation mechanism after suffering huge losses as no tourist would un d ertake the venture.
UWA said the efforts have paid off over the past decade, as 12 per cent populati on growth which was due to better protection from poachers has been recorded.

20 february 2008 15:03:00

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