(Left to right) Hon. Minister Victoire Ndikumana, ALERT COO David Youldon, Hon. Minister Jean-Marie Nibirantije
On the afternoon of 13th July 2012 ALERT's Chief Operating Officer signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of the Republic of Burundi to jointly manage five protected areas within the country; the Ruvubu & Rusizi National Parks, and the Forest Reserves of Bururi, Vyanda and Kigwena. Part of the agreement includes the reintroduction of lions to the country.
The small country of Burundi has long had a strong relationship with the lion, its image appearing on the nation's coat of arms.
The kings of Burundi, prior to becoming a republic in 1966, were given a title of Ntare, Mwezi, Mutaga and Mwambutsa in rotation. Every fourth king had the title Ntare, which means lion. The Kingdom of Burundi was founded during the middle of the seventeenth century by Ntare Rushatsi; Rushatsi meaning “hairy lion”. The last king of Burundi was Ntare V Charles Ndizeye who reigned from 1 September until 28 November 1966.
Records of the last lion of Burundi are lost in history although rumours of the occasional feline visit from neighbouring Tanzania exist. In 2011 the first of many meetings and discussions started to bring the symbol of Burundi back to its landscape using ALERT's responsible development approach to conservation, and late in the afternoon of the 13th of July the agreement was signed.
The Parties to the agreement are:
African Lion & Environmental Research Trust, represented by our Chief Operating Officer, David Youldon
Ministry of Water, Environment, Land Management & Urban Planning, represented by Hon. Minister Jean-Marie Nibirantije
Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Posts and Tourism, represented by Hon. Minister Victoire Ndikumana
The agreement shall be implemented through ALERT with the National Institute for the Environment and the Conservation of Nature and the Burundi National Tourism Office.
The agreement is of course much more than the reintroduction of lions. Such action shall require a major restoration of Burundi's protected areas including the reintrodution of many species that are indigenous to the country, many of which were lost along with the nation's lions. Burundi is also seeking to establish itself as a major destination for tourism and believes that our approach will deliver the desired conservation and development objectives.
The two national parks that will fall under this joint management and restoration intitiative are Ruvubu and Ruzisi. The former covers 508km2 in the east of the country. The Ruvubu river (meaning hippo) runs through the reserve of rolling hills and flood plains. Rusizi is in the north west of the country and includes a beautiful delta that runs to the shores of Lake Tanganyika.
Ruvubu National Park
In the south of the country lie the forest reserves of Bururi, Vyanda and Kigwena - these days they are fragmented from each other by development. These forests are home to an ecologically important population of chimpanzees and ALERT has been asked to jointly manage these reserves to better protect the remaining chimps with a view to re-establishing links between them to ensure a more gentically viable chimpanzee population.
ALERT is extremely proud and excited to have signed this agreement, and looks forward to working with the people of Burundi, and many other partners, as we move forward to re-establish the natural heritage of this beautiful country.
ALERT C.O.O David Youldon with Bururi FR Head Warden Leonidas Nzigiyimpa