EDITORIAL: Despite positive vibes, gorillas not out of the woods yet

A survey conducted in 2010 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda to determine the numbers of remaining Mountain Gorillas found there were only about 480.

Despite major conservation efforts in place, the gorillas were walking a very thin line and were put on the “critically endangered” category by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Despite the gorilla habitat straddling the borders of three countries, Rwanda made its business to make sure those on its territory are well taken care of.  Conservation took a new meaning when Kwita Izina, a baby naming ceremony, was introduced. It is where all new baby gorillas are given names in a sumptuous ceremony.

Today the festival has become a tourist attraction in its own right. Being given an opportunity to give a baby gorilla a name is a great privilege accorded to very few. This year, 23 baby gorillas were named and among the name-givers were royalty, sports and artistic celebrities, conservationists or those from the hospitality industry.

From the seven families in existence seven years ago, today they have grown to 20 and the total numbers of gorillas have hit the 1000th mark, a feat that has convinced IUCN to remove them from the “critical” list.

That would not have happened without involving populations around the national park in conservation efforts. 10 per cent of park revenues also trickle down to the population; they have built schools, health centres, and cooperatives.

But the gorillas are not home safe yet, more efforts will be needed to preserve a species that finds it has a secure environment within our three borders, and nowhere else.