Gorillas do not recognize international boundaries. They move freely around the afromontane forest habitat that straddles the shared borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Thus it is imperative to co-ordinate conservation efforts throughout this contiguous block of forest.
The programme places particular emphasis on regional collaboration at all levels, from the forest in the park to the governments in the three countries, providing a framework for more effective communication and sharing of resources.
IGCP conducts a range of regional activities. These include:
ecological monitoring and surveillance; tourism development; joint training, communication and sharing of experiences; planning; community initiatives and management planning.
Regional meetings enable joint activities to be discussed, planned and evaluated and allow new ideas to be explored. They also provide a vital communication link between the four parks and the three protected area authorities. Monitoring tools such as a shared database and a standardized approach to data collection have considerably enhanced the effectiveness of conservation. IGCP also works with key decision makers such as military commanders, government and administrative authorities to secure joint agreements that ensure a seamless approach to conservation throughout the gorillas’ range.
IGCP worked with the authorities in all three of the range states to develop a plan for the creation of a Transfrontier Protected Area (TFPA). The three authorities subsequently presented a joint paper at a 1996 Peace Parks conference, outlining the potential for a collaboratively managed TFPA. This and subsequent work in Italy in 1999, which also involved the IUCN, led to all three protected area authorities signing a Tripartite Agreement in 2001.
A 10 year transboundary strategic plan has also been agreed, to allow the park authorities of the three countries to work together in managing the diverse ecosystems that lie across the borders. IGCP acted as a facilitator for the planning process.
The conservation authorities have been collaborating since IGCP’s creation in 1991, but this has now been formalised through the strategic plan and a Memorandum of Understanding between them. This is based on the recognition that the threats to the protected areas, conservation and development in the region will be much more effectively dealt with by an overall strategy that all three implement together. Initiatives such as law enforcement, education, and development will not only become more cost effective by pooling resources and removing duplication of expense, but will also be further strengthened by avoiding any potential conflicting strategies.
Harmonization of tourism rules and regulations throughout the range states is paving the way for the establishment of a regional tourism programme.
IGCP has helped to organize joint patrols and training programmes involving staff from two or more countries and developed a ranger-based monitoring programme to ensure effective management of the shared ecosystem.