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Interview: Rwanda’s Former Poacher – Turned Renowned Conservationist

Until in the 20th century, viagra buy http://chuitanzaniasafaris.com/media/widgetkit/widgets/mediaplayer/layouts/dashboard.php Poaching was not seriously regarded as a crime and in most African societies, for sale it was a way of life.

Traditionalists used it as a way of worship and some of the animals killed would be offered as burnt offerings to gain favor and protection before the gods.

It was also performed by impoverished peasants for subsistence purposes, approved supplementing meager diets and some surplus left for sale to earn money.

Poaching has traditionally been defined as the illegal hunting, killing, or capturing of wild animals, usually associated with land use rights.

In 1998, environmentalists proposed the concept of poaching as an environmental crime, defining any activity as illegal that contravenes the laws and regulations established to protect renewable natural resources.

This however didn’t stop people from hunting and killing animals, despite the fact that many governments declared the act illegal and enacted strict laws against the same.

The Rwandan government, in a bid to further curb poaching, established a rehabilitation program through its revenue sharing scheme where poachers are taught about the importance of conservation and empowered to start other income generating projects that protect the environment.

ChimpReports caught up with Francais Ndungutse, a former poacher who through the tourism revenue sharing scheme has been helped to start up a craft making business and is actively involved in conservation activities through sensitizing poachers against the vice.

Ndungutse, 48, is married with four kids, all of which are currently in school. He resides at the foothills of Mt. Sabyinyo, Musanze District, in the Northern Province of Rwanda where Volcanoes National Park is found.

He says he started Poaching at the age of 12 where he would go with his father, to assist them in carrying the meat and equipment used in trapping animals.

“I killed my first animal (an antelope) when I was 16 years old. That day, we captured 4 antelopes, 2 buffaloes and one mountain gorilla,” Ndungutse said in Kinyarwanda.

He says he was a ‘hunter’ for 17 years and that in good days, they would capture atleast 5 animals per week.

“Animals would be many during the rainy season and we would kill atleast 5 in a week. That would be enough for our subsistence and we would even get surplus for sale.”

“We used to hunt for elephants and buffaloes but gorillas would fall in the trap by accident. We never wanted gorillas since they are like human beings and are not edible.”

“The problem is we couldn’t alert park officials after finding gorillas in the trap for fear of being arrested. We would run away and leave them there to bleed and die.”

Ndungutse says in the 17 years, he trapped about 10 – 15 gorillas which he left in the trap and they probably died.

Asked about whether he knew that poaching was illegal, Ndungutse said “yes, we knew. That’s why we used to hide away from anyone we would meet in the park in fear of being reported.”

“But as a kid, I would just go with my father and other men knowing that it was okay to hunt and at that time, I didn’t know that it was against the law,” he added.

Transformation

In 2005, Ndungutse was caught and arrested by game rangers in Volcanoes National Park, who during his jail time told him about the importance of conservation to the country and the communities surrounding the parks.

“We were in a very bad state, wearing torn clothes, and our children were not going to school. All we cared about was capturing an animal for food.”

“We were told about the revenue sharing scheme that was introduced by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) which was helping people around the national parks to develop and were advised to join any of the cooperatives.”

“Currently, I am a member of the Amizer cooperative which is supported by RDB. I make crafts which I sell to people around and the visiting tourists to earn a living and take my children to school.”

Spreads Conservation Gospel

Having witnessed the fruits that conservation can bear, Ndungutse says it would be selfish of him to keep it to himself thus the decision to spread the news to his fellows.

“First of all, from a person who used to wear rugs to a person that you can see now (dressed in a black suit), that’s already a big change that other people can witness. No hunter (read poacher) can have such a life,” He said.

“I have therefore made it my task to go around telling other ‘hunters’ to stop, embrace conservation and join cooperatives because it’s the way RDB can help them develop.”

“Currently, my children are going to school and I can afford to raise money to support them. School fees is affordable because RDB has built schools around parks, which are a little cheaper.”

On whether he would allow any of his children to go hunting, Ndungutse swore to never do that saying that “My children can’t go through the hard life I went through.”

“It used to rain on us all day, we never had any developmental thoughts a part from hunting and alcohol. I can’t let my children go through that.” He swore.

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