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KT Press Reports on Gorilla Conservation and Growing Tourism in Rwanda

July 3, 2014 Responsible Tourism No Comments Email Email

For a decade, the African nation of Rwanda has celebrated the mountain Gorillas, rare and endangered primates, through a colourful naming ceremony locally called “Kwita Izina”.

This year 2014, is the 10th anniversary of the global event, and Rwanda has a conservation story to tell about the rare primates.

Naming and conserving mountain Gorillas has become an international concern for the past ten years. Big international names like CNN founder Ted Turner, Microsoft co-founder billionaire Bill Gates, Hollywood icon Natalie Portman and more have visited Rwanda’s mountain Gorillas and named infants. Rwanda has over 150 mountain gorillas, from 10 families or groups. Bill Gates visited one of the families in June 2006 called Sabyinyo and named a baby from it as ‘KEZA’ or ‘cute one’.

Rwanda will celebrate the birth this year of 18 mountain Gorillas, on the 10th anniversary of Gorilla naming, on July 1, 2014 in the Musanze district, near the gorilla habitat shared between Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

There are strict rules to ensure safety of both gorillas and the tourists. Visitors must maintain at least a distance of 7 meters between themselves and the gorillas, a maximum of 8 tourists per visit, a limit of one tourism group per day, per each gorilla group, and visits limited to an hour.

Rwanda’s mountain gorillas were first brought to international attention by the conservation efforts of American late Dian Fossey in the 1960s and 1970s, a call that Rwanda has given undivided attention since then. Since the genocide targeting Tutsis in 1994, Rwanda’s tourism and hospitality sectors have boomed.

Last year, tourism revenue rose to $294m, from a meager $62m in the year 2000. Payments for gorilla permits count for a bigger portion. In 2010, Rwanda hosted 666,000 visitors who generated US$ 200M – a 14% increase from 2009. In 2013, Rwanda hosted 1,137,000 visitors.

Five percent of the revenues collected from gorilla tourism are invested in the surrounding communities. Park communities have benefitted from more than 300 projects including schools.

As government revenues have grown, so has the number of gorillas. Ambassador Yamini Karitanyi, Head of Tourism and conservation at the Rwanda Development Board or RDD said last week that Rwanda’s community-led conservation efforts have led to a 26.3 percent growth in the population of gorillas since 2003.

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