The New Times (Kigali)

8 October 2012

Rwanda: Border Residents in Joint Drive Against Stray Animals

Local wildlife officials and Rwandans residing near Virunga National Park are closely working with their counterparts from the Democratic Republic of Congo on a joint venture to halt any more attacks by elephants which stray into communities and destroy gardens.

Previously, residents especially from Bugeshi Sector in Rubavu District have seen their prospective harvests destroyed by the jumbos.

For the past three days, residents from both countries are currently digging a protective trench stretching for approximately 3.5 kilometres which, once completed, would limit the free movement of the animals to their farms.

Despite the larger chunk of the park being situated in the DR Congo, elephants often cross into the district destroying agricultural property worth millions of francs.

Most residents look at the initiative as a sustainable way of controlling such attacks.

"I have already lost a lot of money through these regular attacks but I think if we successfully complete this trench, we shall have solved the problem once and for all," an area resident Jean Damacene Bizimana told The New Times in an interview.

Despite losing approximately 400 kilogrammes of Irish potatoes and a hectare of maize when the elephants ravaged his farm last week, Bizimana has worked hard to mobilise area residents to curb the destruction.

Benjamin Mugabo, from the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, acknowledged that digging of deep and wide trenches along the points where the elephants cross would act as a deterrent.

He disclosed that the initiative was facilitated by the Norwegian Embassy in Kampala under a programme to manage the human-wildlife conflict.

The chief warden officer from the DRC, Basigar Karinda, disclosed that there was a possibility of erecting an electric fence once the trench is complete to shield farms from the jumbos.

In the recent past months, the animals have invaded the area on several occasions, drawing concern amongst area residents.

Last year, a herd of elephants crossed over destroying crops and killing several domestic animals.

Previously, residents used flashlight torches to flash at the jumbos as a short term preventive measure as the elephants usually strike at night.

Most victims are yet to be compensated as the provisional law, which caters for this is still under scrutiny at parliament.

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