On the 15th March 2015, at Garden Place Hotel in Musanze, GVTC organized a two-day workshop on “zero poaching”. The main objective of this workshop was to initiate a systematic collaboration approach to stop poaching at the Greater Virunga Landscape level and allow key stakeholders to buy in and ownership of the zero poaching process.
The need of zero poaching has been expressed two years ago during a working session where conservation stakeholders from DRC, Rwanda and Uganda to have the GVL freed from poaching and other wildlife crimes by 2024.
According to the experience of Nepal and that of International experts, “zero poaching“ is achieved when there are no detectable traces of poaching activity in the landscape over a set time period and there is no discernible impact on a species to recover and sustain an increase in population.
Participants who attended the GVTC zero poaching two-day workshop were from conservation organizations of DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda, GVTC staff members, and members of the Delegation from the Netherlands Embassy in Kigali, the main donor of GVTC programs within the GVL. This delegation, headed by Mr. Peter Drost, the Head of Development Cooperation, joined the workshop to learn on how the three countries interact on the elaboration of some regional strategies or on the harmonization of laws, rules and regulations on wildlife crimes tackling within the GVL.
The welcome remarks were given by Mr. Fidele Ruzigandekwe; the GVTC Deputy Executive Secretary who recalled that this month GVTC organized a workshop in Entebbe on the harmonization of laws, regulations and policies to tackle wildlife crimes within the GVL. The results of that workshop, previous studies on wildlife crimes conducted by GVTC, and the recommendations which will be provided by experts during the “zero poaching “ are key pillars to improve the conservation within the GVL for the benefit of the populations of GVTC countries, i.e.DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda. Mr. Fidele Ruzigandekwe also mentioned that during the zero poaching workshop, the GVL 2015 Annual Conservation Status Report will be presented to participants to sustain the debate and receive their recommendations to consolidate the 2016 Annual Conservation Status Report expected by next June.
In his presentation, Andrew McVey, from WWF(World Wide Fund- Nairobi(Kenya), pointed out that zero poaching is not really aiming at reaching zero poaching but getting people work together, involving community members to support initiatives and strategies designed to tackle poaching in the GVL. Stop poaching is really hard to achieve but its strategy may be successful when people have become aware of negative impact on wildlife crimes and have started working together to sustain conservation efforts and initiatives.
Mr. Andrew McVey highlighted that in South Africa, some policies were elaborated to tackle poaching against specific endangered species, and now indicators show significant results, while the country is not about to celebrate achieved success. In this regards, zero poaching should not be understood as GVL business since many conservation institutions are still involved in it and for that purpose, WWS is working with other regional and international organizations to reduce poaching. Mr Andrew recalled the importance of zero poaching strategy which should take into consideration the assessment of existing tools so that conservation organizations may know exactly what exactly is been doing and in the proper way.
It is admitted that « Zero poaching » strategy should be based on six main pillars : (1) conducting regular effectiveness assessments ; (2) using of the best and available tools & technologies ; (3)increasing of field staff’s ability to protect wildlife ; (4)engaging with local communities ; (5) improving approaches for prosecution ; and (6) sharing information regionally and nationally in terms of cooperation.
There are several key factors that can make successful the zero poaching strategy, and among them is the involvement of the communities living around the protected areas and who should stop considering the latter as “enemies”. According to Russel Mittermeier, Primatologist, “By protecting the remaining tropical forests in the world, we are saving primates and other endangered species while avoiding more carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere and warming the climate”. It is in that regard that the Director of UNESCO, K.Mastura emphasized that all the species inhabiting those forests “are everywhere a vital resource for humans, and for local people they are an essential sources of food, water, medicine as much as a place with spiritual, cultural and economic value”.
In some conservation areas, interaction between humans and wildlife is source of conflicts and the reduction of poaching has to be sustained by interventions allowing populations living around the parks have access to alternative resources for their livelihood. That is the reason why a field visit was combined with the zero poaching workshop to understand GVTC interventions conducted by implementing partners around the Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda) as well as Virunga National Park (DRC), through the funds supplied by The Kingdom of the Netherlands Embassy in Rwanda.