Plant Conservation in Africa

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Safeguarding the Plant Diversity of the Albertine Rift


 

The Albertine Rift snakes through parts of Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Tanzania, tearing a deep, bifurcated valley through some of Africa's highest mountains. At least 5,800 plant species—roughly 14 percent of Africa's botanical species—grow inside the Rift's boundaries. Many of these plants grow nowhere else, and many are endangered.

The Rift's abundant diversity results from the multitude of habitats that nestle along its flanks. Neighbor to ice-capped mountains, volcanoes and hot springs, the Rift nurtures plants adapted to varying altitudes, soils and rainfall. Its botanical riches stretch from montane forests and savanna down to lowland forests and deep lakes.

Conservation Partnerships

 The Zoo's desire to help safeguard the Rift's biological wealth inspired a partnership with Tooro Botanical Garden (Fort Portal, Uganda) that began in 2006. Through this partnership, the Zoo has provided funding and training to strengthen the Botanical Garden's staff and conservation programs.


Collaborative Programming

Currently, the Zoo and the Botanical Garden are collaborating on a demonstration garden that is themed around native, medicinal plants. Each of the medicinal garden's 30 species of plants has healing properties that can benefit the local people, most of whom have little access to health care.

In addition to showing visitors how to use these plants for healing, the Garden's programs promote sustainable practices for harvesting these plants and their parts from the Albertine Rift. In preparing this garden, Tooro staff worked closely with local healers and herbalists to document and preserve the wisdom and the botanical knowledge they have amassed through their life experiences.

Arboretum

Recently, the staff expanded to Botanical Garden's exhibits by adding an arboretum that exhibits 500 seedlings from 20 species of the Albertine Rift's trees and shrubs, including several rare and threatened species. As the garden continues to expand, the staff hopes to strengthen its outreach by building an environmental education and workshop center.




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