Nature conservation is a collective effort – expert

Singita has established an on-site nursery that already holds more than 60,000 plants. Courtesy

As of the end of 2018, the IUCN Red List, the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species, reported that Mountain Gorillas moved from being at a “Critically Endangered” threat level to “Endangered” thanks to collaborative conservation efforts.

“Whilst it is fantastic news that Mountain Gorillas are increasing in number, this subspecies is still endangered and therefore conservation action must continue,” Dr Liz Williamson of the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group says.

It has become clear in recent years that the most effective strategy for nurturing biodiversity, caring for the planet and supporting the rural communities which live alongside protected areas is active co-operation between private stakeholders and their strategic partners.

The involvement of companies like Singita, who are able to support local government and communities by investing in impactful ecotourism projects in the region, is vital to the success of Rwanda’s conservation efforts.

In August 2019, Singita will open Kwitonda Lodge and Kataza House on the border of the Volcanoes National Park.

Luke Bailles is the founder and chairman of Singita. Courtesy.

Singita’s Executive Chairman, Luke Bailes notes that opening the lodges in Rwanda gives Singita the opportunity to make a significant contribution to conservation of the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park by attracting guests whose trekking permits fund the management of the Park and its inhabitants.

The Singita brand is well known and respected globally as a leader in conservation and ecotourism and thus regularly attracts high-profile people of influence.

“Bringing guests and conservation work together has a far reaching positive impact as it contributes to numerous conservation initiatives and community empowerment programs. Modern conservation requires a keen focus on keeping tourism, the community and wildlife in a constructive balance. The health and survival of each of these aspects is crucial to the survival of the whole,” he says.

The location of the lodge on the park border also has strategic importance as it creates an ecological buffer zone between neighbouring agricultural plots and the protected area.

In the 1960s, after more than half of the park had been converted to agricultural plots, the work of the late Dian Fossey drew much-needed international attention to the vulnerability of mountain gorillas and paved the way for the boom in gorilla trekking some 20 years later.

Although tourism, like everything else in the country, was interrupted by the tragic 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the resilience and compassion of the Rwandan people saved their culture and their natural heritage from further destruction. The Park officially reopened in 1999 and has since become one of the most popular wildlife destinations on the continent.

The 178-acre piece of land on which Singita Kwitonda Lodge and Kataza House will sit was once part of the park itself, and now forms part of an ambitious undertaking by the Rwandan government to restore over 7,000 acres of land to the protected area.

As the land in question has been under agriculture for many years, one of the priorities for its inclusion in the park is for it to be rehabilitated and reforested with appropriate local vegetation. To support this initiative, Bailes says Singita has established an on-site nursery that already holds more than 60,000 plants.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com