BC-Rwanda-Park Fires,0280

Wildfires destroy parts of Rwanda national park; government moves to protect rare gorillas


Associated Press Writer

KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) – Wildfires touched off by farmers clearing land ravaged hundreds of acres of Rwanda’s premier national park, home to elephants, giraffes and a variety of exotic animals, officials said Thursday.

Meanwhile, the government began evicting farmers from the fringes of another national park to protect the habitat for the rare mountain gorillas, Minister for Trade and Tourism Manasse Nshuti said.

Nshuti said the wildfires at Akagera National Park in eastern Rwanda had been brought under control. He said they had burned portions of about one-third of the park.

Akagera – which also has hippos, crocodiles, buffaloes and baboons – has been a focus of Rwanda’s efforts to draw tourists following a genocidal war 10 years ago.

“We have used the local population, police and the army to put out the fire,” he said. “For now, the fire has been stopped.”

Nshuti also said farmers were being evicted from the Volcanoes National Park, in northwestern Rwanda, following reports that they were encroaching into the park, which is home to some of the world’s 380 remaining mountain gorillas.

The United Nations on Tuesday wrote to authorities in Rwanda, Uganda and Congo to take action against illegal farming in the gorilla habitat, which straddles all three nations.

On the net:

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International: http://www.gorillafund.org

United Nations Environment Program: http://www.unep.org/

AP-ES-07-08-04 2124EDT

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