Credits: John Dickens
Award winner 2019
Birds
Location: Rwanda

Olivier Nsengimana

Olivier Nsengimana is a passionate young veterinarian who is dedicated to the conservation of Rwanda’s nature. After graduating top of his class at the Higher Institute of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, Olivier worked as a field veterinarian with Gorilla doctors. In 2014, Olivier designed a project idea to save the endangered Grey Crowned Cranes in Rwanda and combat the illegal trade. A year later, Olivier founded the Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association (RWCA), allowing him to continue his work on the Grey Crowned Cranes, but also expand to research and conservation projects connected to other endangered or threatened species.

Vision and approach
Grey Crowned Cranes are endangered because of poaching of cranes and their chicks for the pet trade, and poaching of their eggs for food. Also, their habitat is being destroyed. High population density, issues of poverty and lack of awareness among communities about wildlife and the important role of the wetlands are drivers for habitat destruction.

The population of Grey Crowned Cranes has reduced by 80% over the last 5 decades. If these threats are not reduced quickly, Rwanda will soon lose the species. By raising awareness about the conservation issues and providing a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to critical conservation issues, Olivier aims to create sustainable solutions to protect wildlife and their natural habitats. He and his team have worked hard to register all captive cranes in Rwanda and reintroduce them to the wild in Akagera National Park, at the same time as putting efforts into stopping the illegal trade at the source. Local communities are engaged and educated about the services and benefits they can gain from the ecosystem, with the aim to create a co-existence of Grey Crowned Cranes and other wildlife together with people. The ultimate goal is to change the Grey Crowned Crane population from ‘declining’, to ‘stabilising’, to ‘increasing’.

Impact of FFN-award

  • The financial support will make it possible to build capacity of the marsh rangers at Rugezi marsh and the country-wide network of Conservation Champions through ongoing training and mentorship.
  • A community youth environmental club near Akanyaru wetland will be set up. Through this club, youth will learn about the environment, take action to protect and care about their local area and be involved in tree planting events.
  • The post release monitoring of the 150 reintroduced cranes within Akagera National Park will be improved by introducing technologies such as GPS tags, providing valuable data on crane behaviour and habitat use.

“I love everything about Olivier and his project, along with his impressive track record as a gorilla vet. He’s clearly a very charismatic emerging conservation leader, whose success in unravelling the complex cultural sentiments surrounding crowned cranes has evolved into an excellent home grown rescue effort.”–  Saba Douglas-Hamilton, International Selection Committee

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