Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo have renewed commitment to jointly conserve flora and fauna in the Greater Virunga Landscape. The countries, that are sanctuaries of global rare species, in this case mountain gorillas, face challenge of raising a high number of gorillas, mostly silver backs, if they are to promote a high-end tourism. In a statement of the Council of Trade Ministers, the three countries last week agreed to jointly exploit tourism potentials and attractions as well as tourism promotion mechanisms within the Greater Virunga Landscape. The transboundary collaboration around the three countries sought to renew a treaty that had been operational since 1991 to promote integration and a vibrant economy that values high-end tourism products. In a statement, the Minister for Trade and Industry, Francois Kanimba, said Rwanda noted with satisfaction the formalisation of the transboundary collaboration with regard to the shared tourism and conservation. “The treaty is an important instrument in the protection of the common heritage for the populations living within the Greater Virunga Landscape,” he said. The treaty, the statement added, also seeks to help member countries develop a comprehensive strategy that will see a fair share of distribution and mobilisation of funds toward protection of the endangered species. Statistics show that gorilla population around the world hovers around 850 with almost all of them residing in the Great Lakes Virunga massif. While all countries are expected to work on modalities to promote conservation and reproduction of the rare species, gorilla lifespan rarely goes up to 45 years while a female gorilla can produce only two to six offsprings. Shifting focus to procreation Experts say with the three countries aiming to be the premier eco-tourism destinations on the continent, they will need to shift focus from more conservation to procreation of biodiversity. The Greater Virunga massif is home to more than 450 gorillas, according to reports from Karisoke Research Centre (that works to protect and conserve mountain gorillas). Experts at the centre, including Juan Carlos Bonilla, its vice president, say mountain gorillas are mostly hunted for trophies and live infants. Rwanda targets annual tourism revenues of $860 million by 2017, up from $305 million (about Rwf224 billion) in 2014/15 financial year.