Shoebill have regularly been observed in the swamps in the Eastern part of Akagera National Park and are known to move across the border into Tanzania. Population estimates by Birdlife International have suggested the number of individuals in Rwanda to be less than 50. There is no doubt that the population is declining in Rwanda, since the last surveys within Akagera National Park have shown very few individuals. During the 2020 aerial Grey Crowned Crane census, RWCA spotted two Shoebill near the North Western part of Akagera National Park. As they were outside of the protected area, this has inspired RWCA to work towards protecting these wetland areas, to gather more information on sightings and monitor these birds to contribute to saving them from the blink of extinction.
We are working to expand our model of community conservation to Shoebill, by recruiting and training five Community Conservation Champions from the local community. They will raise awareness among community members about the importance of protecting Shoebill and their habitat, gather information from local people about any sightings and possible breeding sites as well as record any sightings of Shoebill (and other wildlife in the area) using the CyberTracker app. Champions will also work with local community members to discourage any illegal activities in the protected areas such as grazing livestock or cutting grass.
We also plan to conduct more regular surveys to better assess the population size and distribution as well as work with local authorities to improve the protection of the wetland areas.