President Paul Kagame has rallied Rwandans to support conservation and environment protection efforts, saying the benefits present a win-win for all.
Kagame was officiating the 13th edition of gorillas naming ceremony- Kwita Izina - in Kinigi sector, Musanze district.
19 baby gorillas were named yesterday.
In only 13 years, the annual Kwita Izina has grown to become a key event on the global conservation calendar.
World renown celebrities, joined thousands of Rwandans at the colourful ceremony that is held on the outskirts of Virunga National Park, that is home to the rare mountain gorillas.
“Mountain gorillas are a part of our natural resources and our heritage. It is everyone’s responsibility to conserve and protect biodiversity. In protecting gorillas, we have everything to gain,” Kagame said.
The President acknowledged the investors who have dedicated their resources to the promotion of tourism and the protection of wild life and the environment in general.
He also paid tribute to those involved in the conservation of the mountain gorillas, pointing out the Dian Fossey Foundation, which was celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Fossey, who was passionate about gorillas was killed in 1986, but her foundation has since remained true to the values of conservation – playing a key role in the success story of Mountain gorillas in the region.
They are over 800 of these endangered species remaining in the whole world shared between Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo borders.
About 400 of these Mountain gorillas live within Rwandan territory.
The mayor of Musanze, Jean-Damascene Habyarimana said that conservation and tourism have transformed his district.
“Musanze has now become Rwanda’s main tourism hub and indeed tourism has strongly facilitated socio-economic transformation of our district and the livelihood of our people,” Habyarimana said.
Last year, Rwanda earned more than $400 million from tourism and 5 per cent is invested in community development oriented projects through revenue sharing schemes.
This year, the revenue sharing scheme is set to increase to 10 percent.
The trickle-down of proceeds from tourism to the communities living around the parks is one of the strategies that have boosted conservation efforts.
Clare Akamanzi, the Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Development Board (RDB) noted that nearly 600 projects have been established through the sharing schemes.
These include, schools, housing and health facilities among other projects that have helped elevate the living standards of the residents.
“This means that we are going to see more community growth from tourism,”Akamanzi said.
When Rwanda started naming baby gorillas in 2005, Akamanzi says, they were only eight groups of gorillas. Today, it has more than doubled with 20 groups living in the park.
“But, the growth is not only in Volcanoes National Park. We have also seen growth in Akagera Park where we now have our Big Five. Thanks to the support of Africa Parks and Howard Buffet foundation we recently reintroduced lions and rhinos,” she added.
Tourism remains the biggest foreign exchange earner in Rwanda. It contributes about 30 percent of export goods and services in Rwanda.
Akamanzi noted that, Rwanda recently crossed to over a million tourists coming to Rwanda, thanks to a favourable visa regime.
“One can get a visa online, for Africans and some other countries you can get a visa on arrival and you can also fly our national carrier which flies to 23 different destinations in Africa, Europe and Asia,” she added.
Before officiating at Kwita Izina, yesterday, President Kagame also launched the luxury Bisate lodge.
Some of the guests of Kwita Izina included Howard Buffet, Sean Penn, Veronika Vařeková a Czech model, Patience Ozokwor and Ben Mugisha Alias The Ben.