Kagame commends conservationists for gorilla population growth

President Paul Kagame has applauded conservationists for their role in the population growth of the mountain gorillas in the Virunga massif.

The population of mountain gorillas, one of the world’s most endangered species, has increased by 25 percent from 480 to 604, according to a latest census commissioned by the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration.

“Encouraging to see the mountain gorilla population in the Virungas has grown 25% in the last eight years. Conservation efforts must continue,” Kagame wrote on Twitter over the weekend.

The Virunga mountains are habitat of these endangered primates, with 604 mountain gorillas living in the vast area that covers three countries; Rwanda, DR Congo and Uganda.

The 604 mountain gorillas (Eastern gorillas) documented in a survey is the largest number of mountain gorillas ever recorded in the trans-boundary Virunga massif, one of the two remaining habitats where these critically endangered apes are found.

Rwanda Development Board (RDB), which spearheads conservation efforts of the animals in Rwanda, stated that when all combined, an estimated 1,004 mountain gorillas up from 800 that existed in the wild as of June 2016.

That includes those that live in Bwindi National Park in Uganda.

The survey attributes the increase in mountain gorillas to the effectiveness of conservation policies and strategies, including regulated tourism, daily protection and veterinary interventions, intensive law enforcement, community conservation projects, and transboundary collaboration.

“Further, these results are a testament to the tireless effort of the rangers and trackers who daily protect and monitor mountain gorillas and their habitat, including those that have been killed in the line of duty,” it says, adding that over 175 rangers have sacrificed their lives protecting Virunga National Park in the last 20 years.

President Kagame also commended Popular American TV talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres, for leading from the front in conserving the mountain gorillas.

Ellen was in Rwanda last week as part of activities to kick off the construction of a gorilla research centre, dubbed The Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

The centre is a birthday gift Ellen received from her long-term partner, Portia De Rossi. In March, during The Ellen Show, she spoke about how she was looking forward to building the campus in Rwanda.

The centre will be the permanent home in Rwanda for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. Rwanda welcomed the initiative, pledging support to Ellen so that her goal of helping protect the gorillas is achieved.

The organisation has been extensively working to protect the endangered mountain gorillas for the past 50 years.

“Thank you @TheEllenShow & Portia for coming to Rwanda & getting involved. #VisitRwanda,” Kagame wrote on his Twitter account.

While in Rwanda, Ellen and Portia met with President Kagame and visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial among other activities.

After trekking up the Virunga mountains, Ellen shared a video of her experience, noting that spending time with these gorillas “changed my life. Thank you to everyone who is helping Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund @SavingGorillas and EDWF save them. You can get involved here. http://ellendegenereswildlifefund.org  -ED.”

“I can’t begin to describe what this experience was like, or how much it means to me. I’m so grateful,” she said.

Rwanda’s tourism revenues have doubled since 2010, thanks to robust and aggressive national conservation efforts. The revenues moved from US$200 million in 2010 to US$404 million in 2016 as set in the 7-year program and have surpassed by 13 per cent the national export strategy targets. The plan is double the current earning to US$800 million by 2014.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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