Umusambi Village: A Unique Conservation Project
Just five years ago, there were Grey Crowned Cranes in captivity everywhere in hotels and gardens in Rwanda. With only an estimated 400 cranes remaining in the wild, they were rapidly heading towards extinction. Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association have been working hard to stop the illegal trade, raise awareness and return many of the captive cranes back to the wild.
Sadly, during this work, we came across many cranes that were disabled as a result of living in captivity. This is often linked to their capture and transportation or because people cut feathers or wings to stop them flying away and without expertise it can go horribly wrong. Other have been maltreated. These cranes deserve to live out the rest of their life in a beautiful and enriching home, yet they are unable to be returned to the wild.
Grey Crowned Cranes in captivity.
RWCA released Grey Crowned Cranes back into the wild.
Umusambi Village became part of the solution to ensure that these cranes have a permanent natural home and that Rwanda can achieve its goal of having no cranes in captivity. It also provides a unique eco-tourism attraction in Kigali City, connecting people and nature which continues to raise awareness about our work to protect Grey Crowned Cranes and save them from the illegal trade.
You can read more about our activities as part of the broader conservation project here.
Umusambi Village fits into this larger conservation project ensuring that are impact can be sustainable over the long term.
We collaborate with local communities around the site, cultivating an appreciation for the cranes as well as ensuring that they can benefit from eco-tourism opportunities in their area. We have entered into partnerships with small businesses and local artisans to source all labour, plants, and merchandise to create a strong link between our project and the community.
All proceeds from your visit to Umusambi Village will go towards:
- Ongoing care and veterinary expertise for the disabled cranes
- Upkeep and maintenance of the site to ensure the cranes continue to have a safe and beautiful home
- Educating local children about wildlife conservation
- Wider conservation activities to ensure that cranes are no longer poached for the pet trade and crane population numbers continue to rise (www.rwandawildlife.org)
We would like to thank all those who have made this project possible. This includes all those who have understood our vision for Umusambi Village and encouraged us to move forward.
It includes the hundreds of local community members who have worked with us to restore the site to make it a beautiful and safe place for the cranes.
It includes a handful of visitors and volunteers who have had a sneak preview of our site and given us great feedback as to how we can develop and improve it.
We also owe a huge thank you to our supporters who have provided funds and allowed us to make our dream a reality:
And our individual donors.
Dr. Olivier Nsengimana
Founder & Executive Director, RWCA
In 2014, Olivier designed a unique conservation project to abolish the illegal trade of the endangered Grey Crowned Cranes in Rwanda and won the Rolex Award for Enterprise which allowed him to start implementing the work. He established Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association in 2015 to build on the work with Grey Crowned Cranes and expand research and conservation efforts to other endangered and threatened species in Rwanda, and the East African region.
Olivier has been a finalist in the 2016 Tusk Conservation Awards, received the 2017 National Geographic Buffett Award for Leadership in Conservation in Africa, won the 2018 Whitley award and most recently, the 2019 Future for Nature award for his conservation work in Rwanda. Olivier is a Doctor in Veterinary Medicine and has a Master of Veterinary Science, Conservation Medicine from the University of Edinburgh, UK.
Deogratias is passionate about wildlife and has a BSc in Biology with honours in Zoology and Conservation from the University of Rwanda. Deogratias manages ‘Umusambi Village’ and is responsible for welcoming visitors, developing the site for tourism and ensuring excellent customer service and customer satisfaction. He also oversees the vegetation management plan and the implementation of the ongoing Master Plan as well as keeping an eye on the cranes.
Beatrice supports our team at ‘Umusambi Village’ with ground maintenance activities and looking after our tree nursery, growing the saplings from seeds to small trees ready to be planted. Beatrice has been involved with this project from the beginning, when she started as a casual worker and now has a full-time position. She’s known by her heroic nickname ‘commando’ due to her strength and courageous and energetic spirit.
Grounds & Maintenance Supervisor
Theoneste finished his high school studies and started working with RWCA as a casual worker in the early days of developing ‘Umusambi Village’. He is extremely dedicated and is now in charge of ground maintenance and fence management at ‘Umusambi Village’, as well as working at the tree nursery and supervising our casual workers on a daily basis. He would love to continue his studies in tourism and hospitality at university.
Winnie has taken on the role of Assistant Botanist, helping manage the indigenous tree nursery She has a BSc in Biology with honours in Wildlife and Aquatic Resources Management from the University of Rwanda and is interested in in biodiversity conservation, environmental protection and tourism. She is also conducting research on pollinators at ‘Umusambi Village’ and hopes to work with us to set up our butterfly house.
Cecile is responsible for the operations of the indigenous tree nursery and the overall restoration and development of ‘Umusambi Village’. She also takes a lead on the tree planting events with RWCA and assists the bat team in their research to identify roost trees, and seeds dispersed by bats. Cecile has a BSc in Biology, Botany and Conservation from the University of Rwanda and is currently studying for her Masters in the UK.
Our Partnership with RWCA
With our partner organisation, Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association, we are deeply involved in wildlife conservation efforts throughout Rwanda.
RWCA’s activities include:
- Reintroduction of captive cranes to the wild
- Engaging local communities & improving livelihoods
- Increasing law enforcement
- Raising awareness
- Youth education
- Long term monitoring of the crane population in Rwanda