Making space for birds: Sourcing solutions from the mountain gorilla conservation model in Rwanda

Rwanda being one of the most densely populated countries in Africa, a large proportion of its native vegetation has been converted into agriculture and settlements, leading to the extensive loss and degradation of natural habitats, with significance for birds as well as other taxa. Despite this, tangible success has been attained in the conservation of mountain gorillas thanks to the high priority afforded to this species and the vigorous protection of its habitats. This article reviews the current conservation approaches in Rwanda, and their effectiveness in addressing threats to the country’s avifauna. Drawing lessons from the conservation of the mountain gorilla approach, and with reference to the principles of Systematic Conservation Planning, this paper argues that the creation of more reserves complementing existing protected areas, the development of bird-related tourism, and a multilevel collaboration of stakeholders at national and regional level, in which the public play a strong role, are crucial for the long-term conservation of birds. The aim of this analysis is both to provide policy options for Rwanda and to suggest an approach to conservation practice for wider application that is scalable and transferable within a developing country context.