Gishwati-Mukura national park is Rwanda’s fourth and newest national park, created in 2015 by combining two separate forests – the larger Gishwati and small Mukura, forming a total of 34 square kilometers plus a buffer zone.
The park was established to help preserve what was remaining of the Mukura and Gishwati forests while also protecting the chimpanzee population therein. The park is also home to golden monkeys, blue monkeys, and L’Hoest’s monkeys. Before the creation of the park, the two forests almost faced extinction as a result of human encroachment after the genocide in 1994. Refugees came back and cleared a large part of the forests to build homes and for subsistence farming. The forest corridor that connected the two forests to Nyungwe National Park disappeared leaving the chimpanzee population and other wildlife isolated. Over 60% of the forests wildlife species were lost by the time the national park was formed
The forests sit on the ridge which divides the Congo and Nile water catchment areas, along the incredibly biodiverse Albertine Rift in the West of the country. It is made up of 60 species of trees, including indigenous hardwoods and bamboo.
Gishwati is home to a group of 20 chimpanzees that live alongside golden monkeys, L’Hoest’s, and blue monkeys. Birds are well represented too, 232 species have been sighted at Gishwati and 163 at Mukura.
Community-based activities around the park include a farm stay, a live cultural dance, making handicrafts, beekeeping, a tea plantation tour, and the chance to learn from traditional healers, who use natural plants to support modern medicine and synthesized drugs.
Refugees came back and cleared a large part of the forests to build homes and for subsistence farming. The forest corridor that connected the two forests to Nyungwe National Park disappeared leaving the chimpanzee population and other wildlife isolated. Over 60% of the forest's wildlife species were lost by the time the national park was formed.
The story of Gishwati-Mukura is another example of how serious the government is about wildlife conservation. The government has partnered with international organizations like the World Bank to plant trees in previously degraded areas. The forest corridors have been rebuilt to connect the two forests to each other and to the Nyungwe forest. If you want to visit somewhere different, then you should visit Gishwati-Mukura National Park. You will be able to track chimps, go birding, visit the local population and take part in a groundbreaking eco-tourism project.