On October 29th, 2014 the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (GVTC) and its partner, the International Gorilla Conservation Program held a seminar at Le Belvedere Hotel in Rubavu, Rwanda. This seminar was a pre-planning meeting that focused on the upcoming census of gorilla in the Virunga landscape. The stakeholders who took part in this strategic meeting were from partner organizations involved in conservation of Virunga Massif in the three countries of Rwanda, Uganda and DRC.
The main objective of this strategic meeting was to open up discussion with technical team members to ensure participation and ownership in the upcoming gorilla census in the Virunga Massif and also to determine the subsequent planning steps and the roles as well as the responsibilities ot fhe parties.
After a brief introduction of participants and a slight overview of the objectives and agenda given by Mr James Byamukama, the Program Manager of GVTC and the moderator of the meeting, the participants got a common understanding of gorilla past population estimates together with the evolution of methods used in gorilla census. Dr Georges Muamba, the Executive Secretary of GVTC outlined the importance of such a meeting and encouraged participants to provide GVTC and IGCP with helpful recommendations to have accurate estimations of gorilla population of the Greater Virunga Landscape in the coming years.
The transboundary collaboration dynamic which is being currently implemented requires a kind of visibility of gorilla population since the gorilla is flagship species in the landscape. Government and interested parties would like to know exactly if the figures of gorilla have increased or decreased since the last census made in 2010 and the recent armed conflicts faced by the landscape region.
In his opening remarks, Dr Muamba warmly welcomed all the participants by emphasizing on the presence and participation of Prof. Dudu Akaibe who joined the team for the first time from the Université de Kisangani in DRC. The latter is the Director of Centre de Surveillance de la Biodiversité (CSB) of Université de Kisangani.
According to Dr Muamba, the results of previous researches conducted by GVTC and its partners have been used to boast our national parks in the Greater Virunga Landscape and state that we are the keepers of an endangered world heritage. It is on that tone that the GVTC Executive Secretary opened the Gorilla Census pre-planning meeting in Rubavu, thanking at the same time all GVTC donors, respectively the Norvaw Ambassy, the Netherlands Embassy as well as the International Gorilla Conservation Program represented at this pre-planning meeting by Ms Anna Behm Masozera, the Director of the International Gorilla Program Conservation in Kigali (Rwanda).
Soon after the opening remarks, the participants listened with a great attention a presentation given by two researchers on the gorilla population census. That presentation focused namely on Evolution of methods and what have we learned in terms of survey accuracy by Martha Robbins from the Department of Primatology at Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany and Jane Hickey from IPGG.
Participants agreed that as soon as possible, GVTC, UWA, RDB, ICCN, DFGFI, MGVP, IGCP, ITFC, MPI and GVTC will designate their representative for the next steps in gorilla census process in the Virunga Massif. GVTC is required to advocate for enabling environment by requesting institutional approval for transboundary movements during the survey.
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