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All Known Gorillas Reported Safe After Rwanda, Uganda Successfully Extinguish Forest Fire

  • Tuesday, July 28, 2009

VIRUNGA HEARTLAND--The forest fire which raged through Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park and Uganda's Mgahinga National park on the two countries' borders was completely extinguished by the end of last wek. A team of 4,000 mobilized to battle the blaze on its final day, assisted by military helicopters dumping water on its hotspots from above. The sectors of the two National Parks on the border between Rwanda and Uganda were not prime gorilla habitat, and all known gorilla groups are reported to be safe.

The fire was accidentally started on the 18th of July when strong winds took hold of a flame a local beekeeper was using during honey harvesting near Volcanoes National Park, igniting grass and quickly spreading up Muhabura Volcano, which sits on the Rwanda-Uganda border. Fire fighting teams made up of military personnel, police, National Park staff and neighboring communities fought the blaze, often staying in the Park overnight to monitor it and keep hotspots from spreading. After tamping it out, the teams were commended in a Rwanda government cabinet meeting, who cited their perseverance and excellent teamwork. Authorities also urged local communities to respond rapidly to these types of accidents and communicate them in a timely manner, as well as avoiding the undertaking of activities that can potentially harm both people and the Park.

In addition to supporting the firefighting teams, the African Wildlife Foundation through the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP)--a coalition of AWF, Flora and Fauna International, and the World Wide Fund for Nature--is contributing to joint Rwandan-Ugandan patrols which are mapping the burned area and discouraging communities from entering the forest to collect natural resources resulting from the fire, such as wood. The patrols are currently ongoing, with an estimate of the total number of hectares burned expected soon. AWF will continue its support of IGCP in the monitoring and clean-up operation, and will work with Park authorities and the communities on future responses to the affected area, in addition to continuing forest fire education.

To learn more about mountain gorilla conservation, click here.

To support IGCP, click here.

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