Biodiversity conservation experts have welcomed the cabinet approval of the request to nominate Nyungwe National Park as a UNESCO World Heritage site saying, once listed, it will attract more funding to conservation and research efforts. The cabinet approved the request on December 14. Studies show that the park feeds two of the world’s largest rivers – the Congo and Nile rivers, - and it is the source of at least 70 per cent of Rwandas freshwater. The value of Nyungwe National Park, which is located in south-western Rwanda, is estimated at $4.8 billion according to studies. Charles Karangwa, the Regional Technical Coordinator, Forests Landscapes and Livelihoods at IUCN Eastern and Southern Africa told The New Times that having Nyungwe park on the world heritage list could attract funding for conservation considering its contribution to the life of people and biodiversity. “The first benefit is that the site gets immediate international recognition, which is a feather in the cap for already protected sites. It boosts tourism. It demonstrates social responsibility. The site can take advantage of the UNESCO network and partners. Further, limited funding is associated with World Heritage Status,” he explained. He said that the World Heritage Committee allocates funding on a priority basis, with a particular focus on the most threatened sites, including those listed as World Heritage in danger, as well as on properties situated in developing countries. “As countries continue to struggle with Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to recognize the role of nature in the recovery plan. Protected area such as Nyungwe play an important part in this process, he said. Prof. Beth Kaplin, the Director for Centre of Excellence in Biodiversity and Natural Resources Management at the University of Rwanda said that UNESCO World Heritage Sites receive this designation when they have special cultural, historical, and scientific or some other form of importance. “World Heritage sites are showcases for the interconnections between the cultural and the natural world. Sites with this designation are special places - they highlight the special value of a site for all humanity. The fact that Nyungwe National Park was nominated for this designation acknowledges how amazing this mountain tropical forest is for Rwanda and the world,” she said. Télesphore Ngoga, a Conservation Analyst at Rwanda Development Board believes the park ticks all the boxes to be among World Heritage Sites considering that it is bigger, conserved and protected and that it has species that are no longer available elsewhere. He said being adding the park on this list could attract more tourists which could later economically benefit the population around it and in general in various ways. “Another thing is that when it is on the world heritage list, we could get support in case we face any threat from it and could continue to get funding for its conservation,” he said. Decision next year Dominique Mvunabandi, Director of Sciences, Technology, Innovation Unit at National Commission for UNESCO said that preparations to list Nyungwe on the World Heritage site started two years ago adding that now the park is on a provisional list. He said that the final decision list likely to be made out next year. “Nyungwe is the source of the Nile River and the world would be curious to know the source of the River Nile,” he said. Nyungwe is one of the oldest rainforests in Africa, covering 1,019 km2 of dense forests, bamboo-covered slopes, grasslands and wetlands and it is the largest expanse of forest remaining in Rwanda. The park is also a regional biodiversity hotspot, home to 1,068 recorded plant species, 322 bird species, 75 known mammal species and 13 different primate species. Nyungwe Park also features a swamp with a variety of species. The water flows about 3km to form a waterfall which flows through Lake Kivu, Congo River, Tanganyika until the Atlantic Ocean. In October 2020, RDB and African Parks signed a new 20-year partnership agreement for Nyungwe National Park, to ensure sustainable management of the park, promoting conservation and providing benefits to local people.