EDITORIAL: Wildlife conservation begins as a small idea …

Wildlife conservation will be the top billing for the next few days and the icing on the cake will be the annual gorilla naming ceremony, “Kwita Izina”, which as usual, will have some celebrities among the “namers”.

This year, 26 baby gorillas will be named, an indication that the conservation efforts are paying off, attracting more visitors and revenues and sharing the proceeds with surrounding communities.

Conservation has come a very long way in the past quarter-century. Prior to 1994, the current Akagera National Park was more than double its current size. The influx of many returnees, most of them cattle herders made it inevitable to shave off part of the park to accommodate them.

It did not take long for a human/animal conflict to erupt and soon the lions were wiped out and the rhinos poached for their trophies. Well, that it can be confidently said was the past. The lions and rhinos are back and surrounding communities understand that the animals are more valuable to them alive than dead.

But in that entire successful conservation journey, there are a few unsung heroes who took it upon themselves to play their part without being invited. That is the case one, Olivier Nsengimana, who came to the rescue of the grey-crowned crane which was on the verge of extinction.

Today the organization he formed, Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association is responsible for saving the birds which now number over 700, nearly double the number two years ago.

Many of the birds have been saved from captivity and after rehabilitation, reintroduced in the wild and their breeding grounds protected from human encroachment. Yes, everyone can play their part, however small.

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