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Widespread poverty is causing deforestation and poaching in Rwanda.

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  • Quick Facts:


    2,633,800 hectares (26,338 sq. km.) (10,169 sq. mi.)

  • Key Landmarks

    Lake Kivu
    Volcanoes National Park
    Nyungwe National Park

  • Wildlife

    Mountain gorilla, chimpanzee, colobus monkey, giraffe, elephant

  • Primary Ecosystems

    Savanna, tropical and subtropical forest

  • Population

    12,208,407 (2017)

    Tags: Rwanda, Chimpanzee, Colobus Monkey, Elephant, Giraffe, Mountain Gorilla, Virunga

  • Mountain gorilla in Virunga National Park, Rwanda
  • Mountain Gorilla Craig R Sholley
  • Mountain Gorilla Craig R. Sholley
  • Mountain gorilla Craig R. Sholley
  • Mountain Gorilla IGCP
  • Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge Craig R. Sholley
  • Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge Governors Camp Collection
  • Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge AWF
  • Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge Governors Camp Collection

Rwanda is home to a third of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas.

Known as the “Land of a Thousand Hills,” Rwanda rests just below the equator and its size, while small has a rich geography comprised of mountains, savannas, and many lakes. This landlocked nation is at a high altitude. It is also home to Lake Kivu, one of the 20 deepest lakes in the world.

In some ways, Rwanda is still recovering from its civil conflicts and the 1994 genocide. With few natural resources, the economy is based on subsistence agriculture, where farmers grow just enough food to feed their families. Coffee and tea are cash crops and one of the country’s biggest exports thanks to the high altitudes, steep slopes, and volcanic soils.

Tourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors because Rwanda is fortunate to be one of only two countries where tourists can visit the endangered mountain gorillas safely. Mountain gorillas and Volcanoes National Park are an economic engine for Rwanda. The country generated US$ 400 million from tourism alone in 2016, and revenue is projected to continue increasing.

In addition to mountain gorillas, Rwanda’s tapestry of habitats makes it an inviting home to a diversity of other wildlife species including chimpanzee, hippo, giraffe, elephant, leopard, zebra, and more than 700 kinds of birds.

The country houses three national parks where most of its large mammals are found, including the Ruwenzori colobus arboreal monkeys. These monkeys have the biggest troop size of any primate in Africa and can move in groups of up to 400.


Wildlife populations are shrinking while human populations continue to expand at alarming rates.

Rwanda is still continuing to rebuild long after a decade of war. Aside from improving its infrastructure, Rwanda is also challenged by being one of the most densely populated countries in all of Africa. With more than 12 million people and growing, nearly 40 percent of Rwanda’s population is comprised of youth under the age of 15.

Most people live in rural areas in poverty, resulting in pressures to convert protected areas into farmland and causing deforestation, as people exploit forest products like bamboo or firewood for fuel.

Rampant poaching persists until extinction.

Rampant poaching of small mammals is a new challenge. Previously, poachers targeted large mammals. But, due to the extinction of buffalo and the elephants in Nyungwe National Park, they have moved on to giant rats and squirrels. People have also destroyed hills and trees after setting fires that spread while they attempted to smoke bees from wild hives.


Our solutions to protecting Rwanda's unique biodiversity:

  • Expanding critical mountain gorilla habitat to provide safe spaces for growing gorilla populations.

    African Wildlife Foundation in partnership with the Government of Rwanda and Rwanda Development Board has expanded Africa’s oldest park for the first time in 30 years.

    The 27.8-hectare of donated land is adjacent to Volcanoes National Park and is the narrowest part of the park in an area where endangered mountain gorillas often wander across the park boundary, which increases the risk of human-gorilla conflict and the danger of exposure to deadly disease.

    Just over 1,000 mountain gorillas remain in the world today, and they are found only in two regions — the Virunga Massif where Volcanoes National Park is located and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. AWF has been supporting mountain gorillas in Rwanda for almost four decades and was a founding member of the International Gorilla Conservation Program, a coalition formed in 1991 to address the severe threat to endangered apes. Despite their endangered status, mountain gorillas are the only great ape increasing in population, and habitat expansion is critical to sustaining population growth.

  • Community-owned lodge improves livelihoods and gorilla conservation.

    In 2007 AWF developed the first luxury community-owned lodge in Rwanda — Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge. Since the lodge opened, it has generated millions of dollars for the community, which has resulted in livelihood improvements and has revealed the important role wildlife plays in communities well-being empowering them to engage in conservation.

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