NYARUGENGE - The Office of Rwanda Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN) Wednesday unveiled several facilities for communities along the frontiers of the Virunga national park in the two districts of Musanze and Bulera, which were built using revenue obtained from gorilla tourism.
The Frw410 million facilities include a community lodge, health centres, classrooms and water tanks, as a gesture of appreciation to the communities for helping conserve one of the world’s rarest species.
Kwita Izina (giving a name) is a ceremony to name young gorillas, which first took place in 2005.
But contrary to previous ceremonies, this year’s event will last a whole week and will include mega concerts, community work, a conference, unveiling a gorilla monument and the real naming ceremony. Twenty baby gorillas will be given names this year. He said tourism benefits were more evident than any other sector.
ORTPN says that the move was part of efforts to tell the locals that gorillas were directly productive to them and the nation as a whole.
“People should start to see mountain gorillas as the country’s major resource which brings significant socio-economic benefits,” ORTPN’s Director General, Chantal Rugamba, said during the ceremony at Nyabitsinde Primary School in Kinigi Sector, Musanze District.
Rugamba noted that she hoped residents will now live side-by-side with gorillas and actively participate in the primates’ conservation programmes since they are realising benefits directly.
She said that the funds that were used to construct the facilities were raised through previous Kwita Izina ceremonies and gorilla tourism revenue.
“Even if I don’t explain what mountain gorillas have yielded to us, this school (Nyabitsinde Primary) can tell the story itself,” a beaming Gregoire Hitimana, who lives near the new school in Kinigi, said.
The Governor of the Northern Province, Boniface Rucagu, told residents that the benefits they were enjoying from gorilla tourism was due to the prevailing peace and stability in the country.
Rugamba said that ORTPN intends to use the gorilla naming ceremony, which is set for June 21, to highlight the progress made in promoting Government-community partnership in the conservation and protection of the over 320 gorillas in Rwanda.
The event will be held under the theme: “Working Together to Conserve our Wildlife.” Gorilla tourism last year contributed up to $7 million to the national treasury.
ORTPN announced that it plans to inject a further Frw170 million into this year’s projects to support the communities around the same park.