History of Nyungwe National Park

Nyungwe forest is hundreds of thousand years old and people’s presence can be traced back to about 50,000 years ago.

1903

Nyungwe is declared a forest reserve, first by the German colonial government then by the Belgians, with restrictions on clearing. Protection is not consistently enforced.

1958-1973

Forest in Nyungwe is reduced by over 150 km2 due to fires, woodcutting, hunting of animals, and small-scale agriculture. Nearby Gishwati and Virunga forests are also cut in half at this time for agriculture conversion.

1969

Elephants still number in the hundreds in Nyungwe.

1974

The last buffalo is killed in Nyungwe by hunters.

1984

Nyungwe is divided into areas that allow for sustainable use and harvesting of timber. The Government of Rwanda develops a plan for a buffer zone that can still be seen today.

1984

Biodiversity surveys conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) with RDB (formerly ORTPN) document colobus in groups of up to 400 members—an unheard of phenomenon.

1987

Trail system begins to be formed at Uwinka.

1990

Project Frugivore, a USAID-funded project out of University of Wisconsin-Madison initiates a research project on the role of frugivores in the maintenance of biodiversity in Nyungwe. Focus species include the three turaco species, two guenon species (blue monkey and mountain or L’Hoest’s monkey) and understory frugivorous birds.

1994

War and genocide devastate the country and destroy many of the research and tourist facilities in Uwinka. Most senior staff is forced to flee, but many junior staff members at Nyungwe stayed to protect the park.

1995

The park begins to rebuild, but security and stability are still uncertain.

2005

Nyungwe is declared a National Park

2010

Nyungwe Nziza (beautiful Nyungwe) project begins to help boost ecotourism and economic growth in the area funded by USAID

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