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Rwanda Forest Figures

Forest Cover
Total forest area: 480,000 ha
% of land area: 19.5%

Primary forest cover: n/a
% of land area: 0.0%
% total forest area: n/a

Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005
Annual change in forest cover: 27,200 ha
Annual deforestation rate: 6.9%
Change in defor. rate since '90s: 867.1%
Total forest loss since 1990: 162,000 ha
Total forest loss since 1990:50.9%

Primary or "Old-growth" forests
Annual loss of primary forests: n/a
Annual deforestation rate: n/a
Change in deforestation rate since '90s: n/a
Primary forest loss since 1990: n/a
Primary forest loss since 1990:n/a

Forest Classification
Public: 77%
Private: 23%
Other: 0%
Production: 76.2%
Protection: 10.8%
Conservation: 0%
Social services: 0%
Multiple purpose: 12.9%
None or unknown: 0

Forest Area Breakdown
Total area: 480,000 ha
Primary: n/a
Modified natural: 62,000 ha
Semi-natural: n/a
Production plantation: 367,000 ha
Production plantation: 52,000 ha

Plantations, 2005: 419,000 ha
% of total forest cover: 87.2%
Annual change rate (00-05): 27,220,000 ha

Carbon storage
Above-ground biomass: 75 M t
Below-ground biomass: 13 M t

Area annually affected by
Fire: 4,000 ha
Insects: n/a
Diseases: n/a

Number of tree species in IUCN red list
Number of native tree species: 300
Critically endangered: 0
Endangered: 0
Vulnerable: 3

Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood: 226,000 m3 o.b.
Wood fuel: 10,203,000 m3 o.b.

Value of forest products, 2005
Industrial roundwood: $1,318,000
Wood fuel: $33,977,000
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs): n/a
Total Value: $35,295,000

More forest statistics for Rwanda

Tourism is largely the reason mountain gorillas still survive today in Rwanda. The gorilla had long been threatened by poachers and habitat destruction by farmers until the government created Volcanoes National Park and implemented strict anti-poaching patrols with local farmers as park rangers and guards. These improvements were directly funded by a substantial fee charged to visitors to the park who have been willing to pay the high fee in order to see the last of these giant apes.

Up until the early 1990s, this conservation system seemed to be working reasonably well, although non-park areas were still threatened by subsistence agriculture and fuelwood collection. However, the situation deteriorated drastically with the massive Tutsi-Hutu civil war that erupted in 1993. Although the chaos initially did not do much damage to the forest or the gorilla habitat, the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of refugees took its toll on the environment. Many conservation workers fled their posts or were killed during the ethnic violence, while soldiers and refugees moved into national parks, hunting wildlife and razing forests for fuelwood and building materials. Akagera National Park was hit particularly hard.

All was not lost though. In the Nyungwe Forest Conservation Project, participation by locals sustained conservation projects even as the genocide occurred. According to Fimbel and Fimbel (1997), local people became stewards of the national park after the expatriate staff fled the country and protected the park from forest exploiters.

Today forest covers nearly 20 percent of Rwanda. While virtually none of this is classified as primary forest, a large reforestation effort increased overall forest cover by an average of 8 percent per year between 2000 and 2005. Currently about 7.7 percent of the country is under some form of protection. Rwanda's best known parks are Nyungwe National Park, Volcanoes National Park (montane forest harboring mountain gorillas and golden monkeys), and Akagera National Park (largest remaining lower montane forest on the continent of Africa).

Besides its world-renowned mountain gorilla population, Rwanda is home to 96 other species of mammals along with 665 birds, 31 amphibians, 206 reptiles, and 2,288 species of plants.

According to the U.S. Department of State, the Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF) currently provides security for tourists in the Volcanoes National Park against attacks by rebel groups operating from the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. The RDF also provides military escorts for visitors viewing the mountain gorillas.

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Last updated: 4 Feb 2006