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Destructive Mudslide in Virunga Heartland

  • Thursday, May 5, 2005

Deforestation for subsistence agriculture has left much of the soil on the steep hills of the Virunga Volcanoes unstable and, therefore, vulnerable to mudslides. This rainy season's heavy rainfall took its toll.

On April 27th, an enormous mudslide carrying with it boulders, trees, and large amounts of water, crashed through the District of Bukamba in Rwanda, killing at least four people. Seven children are reported missing. The mudslide destroyed vast areas of the landscape, and more than 17 homes. In addition, at least two cows, along with many sheep and goats were killed.

Shortly after the mudslide, Rwandan police and military accompanied guards from Volcano National Park of Rwanda to the site of destruction to provide assistance, evaluate damage and assess the risk of continued erosion in the area. Unfortunately, they were not able to access the area due to a cascade of water (at least 100 meters high) that had originated at the top of the volcano and split into three, creating enormous ravines filled with torrent water.

Rangers from Uganda are providing much needed assistance through the transboundary collaboration established between the three area parks. Reports from the rangers indicate that no damage has occurred on the Ugandan side of the volcano.

The International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) is working to provide assistance to the local people, including encouraging populations to move to slightly less steep areas. IGCP continues to help people living along the park boundaries to find alternatives to agriculture, in hopes of warding off future erosion problems. In addition, IGCP and other partners are working on reforestation of the park boundaries.

The area remains an important conservation focus as it is home to the last mountain gorillas in the world.

The International Gorilla Conservation Program is a coalition of the African Wildlife Foundation, Fauna and Flora International and World Wide Fund for Nature. This coalition deploys a variety of methods, including transboundary collaboration, ranger-based monitoring, community development, anti-poaching activities and habitat conservation to help the mountain gorilla population endure.

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