Eastern chimpanzees, an endangered species, are found in Nyungwe National Park, Cyamudongo Forest and Gishwati Forest Reserve in Rwanda, the latter two areas being small, isolated forest fragments. The relatively large and viable population in Nyungwe lives at one of the highest altitudes yet recorded for chimpanzees, providing valuable opportunities for both conservation and research into their behavioral ecology at high altitudes.
A major objective of the WCS Program in Rwanda is to create a model for conservation management and community conservation for Rwanda and develop the capacity of Rwandan nationals to undertake conservation research and manage protected areas to create the next generation of conservation leaders. To accomplish this, WCS has developed a program of education and dialogue with the local communities living in the Cyangugu province surrounding the forest. ‘Animateurs de la Conservation’ (ANICO) is an innovative attempt to work within the local community’s political structure to educate people about the importance of Nyungwe nationally and globally. WCS also developed education programs in schools, leading to the creation of conservation clubs. Since many children cannot attend school, WCS also initiated ‘Associations’ comprised of young people in the community who are informed about conservation. These clubs have subsequently visited the forest and the tourism sites.