Established and run by Rwandans who come from and understand local communities, the Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association (RWCA) follows a multi-disciplinary approach to create sustainable solutions to critical conservation issues. Their primary focus is on the endangered grey crowned crane, which is threatened across its range by habitat loss and poaching.
Founded by Tusk Conservation Award finalist and 2018 Whitley Award Winner Olivier Nsengimana, the project uses a holistic approach to combat the illegal trade in grey crowned cranes in Rwanda and maintain healthy wild populations. Activities include raising awareness of the legal and conservation status of cranes, identifying and registering captive cranes, rehabilitating and reintroducing captive cranes, and working with local communities around key areas to reduce poaching and trade.
Tusk funding has helped to educate, engage, and improve livelihoods of local communities around Rugezi marshland and Akagera National Park. In Rugezi RWCA worked with an existing cooperative of ex-poachers, establishing a pig farm as an alternative income source and training them as marsh rangers to assist with law enforcement and crane monitoring. In Akagera they distributed a conservation comic book to school children, educating them about cranes and discouraging them from taking eggs and chicks, and also ran a workshop for local leaders to raise awareness and improve law enforcement. Intended to tackle poaching and trade at the source, these actions led to an increase in reporting of illegal activities as well as improved understanding of the situation among the target groups.
Having changed status from ‘least concern’ in 2008 to ‘endangered’ by 2012, the grey crowned crane needs immediate action to prevent a precipitous decline. The focused and practical actions of the RWCA are a vital component of this. Further funding is needed to allow their work to continue.