Daily info gathering by rangers feeds park planning

Data crunching. It’s not very glamorous, but it is vitally important to the conservation of the critically-endangered mountain gorillas.

Up-to-date, relevant and timely information is an essential prerequisite which enables managers of protected areas to make informed decisions, to monitor and evaluate, and to plan. Use of information is an integral part of effective protected area management. In Volcanoes National Park, Ranger Based Monitoring (RBM) program was initiated in 1998 and has enabled the daily gathering of extensive information on illegal activities, key species of fauna and flora, and habituated and unhabituated groups of gorillas. It has become a habit to organize an annual RBM workshop which assembles all stakeholders to evaluate the annual trends and set priorities of the following year. This year, a 2-day RBM workshop was organized by the Volcanoes National Park from 19 to 20th February 2013 held at Ishema Hotel in Musanze.

This workshop was attended by rangers representing all the five management sectors of the park and representative of each gorilla tracking team. Among representatives were staffs from organizations who support the park in various ways, including DFGFI- Karisoke Research Center, Gorilla Doctors (Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project), and the International Gorilla Conservation Programme.

The objective of this annual workshop was to present the results from RBM data in 2012 to different stakeholders and park staffs including field staffs (trackers, rangers) and discuss on management implication and from that prompts appropriate responses to the park threats

Participant discussing on RBM results.

Participant discussing on RBM results.

The first day consisted of the presentation of 2012 RBM results by the Research and Monitoring Warden and Law Enforcement Warden followed by field updates of team leaders of each park management sector and head trackers. A detailed discussion on challenges met was done and adaptive measures agreed on. It was also an opportunity to review RBM data collection sheets and IMPACT sheets (for gorilla health monitoring) where rangers and trackers addressed challenges about filling in these datasheets and got clarifications.

The second day focused on the insight on regional RBM results of the last years, and a brief updates on tourism activities and research activities carried out in 2012. Finally, trackers and rangers were briefed on their role in Park-Community partnership and the ways this role as their daily work depend on the collaboration with local communities around the park.

Rangers had time to present RBM updates from their respective sectors along with  challenges met helping all participants to discuss on measures and way forward.

Rangers had time to present RBM updates from their respective sectors along with challenges met helping all participants to discuss on measures and way forward.

This workshop was organized by the Volcanoes National Park with additional funds from the International Gorilla Programme. A part of the regional RBM workshop which is organized annually by IGCP, these workshops at park level are good opportunity to discuss challenges and way forward in RBM program with ground field staffs (rangers and trackers).

The Ranger Based Monitoring program is supported by IGCP in mountain gorilla habitat in the Virunga-Bwindi Landscape.

Charles Kayijamahe, IGCP Field Officer

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