News / Africa

    Animal-Human Conflict Rages in Eastern Rwanda

    Antoine, a farmer, says he has lived near the park for three years, and has trouble feeding his family because animals raid his crops
    Antoine, a farmer, says he has lived near the park for three years, and has trouble feeding his family because animals raid his crops
    Heather Murdock

    Nearly 17 years after civil war and genocide devastated the country, Rwanda is mostly peaceful, and the economy is growing fast.  But in the eastern countryside, conflict still rages.  Wild animals attack people, while gangs of poachers roam the forest endangering the wildlife and the rangers trying to protect them.  Our reporter files this story from Akagera National Park.

    Antoine, says he has lived in the village of Humere for three years. He is trying to grow sorghum beans and maize.  For three years, he says, animals from the nearby Akagera National Park have raided his crops.

    Antoine says he cannot feed his family, and he is thinking of moving on.  But in Rwanda, the most densely populated country in Africa, land is scarce.

    Animal-Human Conflict Rages in Eastern Rwanda
    Animal-Human Conflict Rages in Eastern Rwanda


    In the 1990s, as this country reeled from a crushing civil war and the fastest genocide in history, this part of eastern Rwanda, Akagera National Park, was packed with refugees, militants, and farmers whose cows had nowhere to graze.

    Now, zebras meander and giraffes loiter in this 1,100-square-kilometer reserve, while buffalo, elephants, crocodiles, and hippos march through the bush or bob in the lakes, and 530 different kinds of birds flutter above.

    But locals say although the human war is over, conflict continues in and around the park between animals and people.  Buffalo, elephants and hippos wander out, killing and maiming people, and eating crops.  People march in, in groups as large as 100 strong, illegally killing everything from hippos to rabbits.

    Theogene Semugisha oversees social services for Ndego, a district of almost 15,000 people who live around Akagera.  He says as many as 80 percent of the people in his area lose crops every year to animals.

    Bryan Havemann, the Akagera project manager for South African non-profit developers African Parks, says that every day animals are poached, and last year two rangers were shot and killed.

    Havemann says the only way to stop poachers is to train rangers as a paramilitary fighting force.  But he says even with training, rangers still lack ammunition and the authority to fight back.

    "These guys ended up in jail because they had shot someone, and they were really in defense of their lives," said Havemann. "They guys need to have the jurisdiction to know that if they are really in danger that they can actually defend themselves."

    For the rapidly growing population surrounding the park, the animals are as dangerous as the poachers. Last year, five people were killed and 15 wounded in animal attacks.  Currently the Rwandan government is planning to build a $2.7 million electric fence, to keep the animals in the park.  Havemann says if the fence is maintained, it could go a long way towards quieting the conflict.

    In the meantime, villagers say they are barely surviving.  This woman, Mushimiyimana, lives hand-to-mouth on the crops she grows when the animals don’t raid the fields.  A few years ago, a hippopotamus killed her husband.

    Mushimiyimana says in the dry season, it is hard to feed her family with the crops they grow.  When her husband went to the forest to forge for food one night, he met a hippo.  Neighbors found his body, and he was buried the next day.

    But researchers say it is not just the animals in the park and poachers that threaten the future of the region. Inside the park, a protected area, commercial fishing companies are legally harvesting fish, leaving some lakes virtually lifeless for years at a time.

    Quinn Ferguson, a master’s student from Dublin’s Trinity College who is researching fishing in Akagera, says if the lakes run out of fish, it could threaten the lives of all the animals in the park.

    "The other species that exist in the park, which is meant to be a protected area, which is meant to be the kind of place that showcases the types of species you see in Africa, would potentially no longer exist," said Ferguson.

    But Havemann says despite the challenges, Akagera National Park has the potential to draw tourists from all over the world.  If peace efforts are successful, he says, lions and rhinoceroses will be re-introduced into the park after being poisoned or poached to extinction in the '90s.

    These animals would complete the park’s collection of the “Big Five,” he says, which also include leopards, buffalo and elephants.  

    With mountains, lakes, wetlands, and plains, Havemann says if the conflicts in the park can be quieted, Akagera could rival the most exotic destinations in Africa.  

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora