Rwanda has become increasingly vibrant for her environmental policies. The country’s breathtaking beauty is an addition to her many attributes.
Support for education, investment, security and eco-tourism have made it assessable, affordable and one of the safest tourist destinations for adults and children in Africa and the world at large.
Rwanda’s business-conducive climate and several recent reforms of the government’s travel and tourism policy such as infrastructure development and a high-end travel and tourism marketing strategy have contributed materially to the momentous growth in Rwanda’s travel and tourism industry.
These attributes to say the least have seen the tourism industry blossom. The industry, therefore, not only generates revenue to support conservation and management of natural environment but also generates many job opportunities for our citizens.
Tourism has had larger multiplier effects, with revenue spreading from hotel accommodation, food and beverages, shopping, entertainment and transport to income of hotel staff, transport operators, shopkeepers and suppliers of goods and services.
As it is, tourism records the strongest performance in terms of export growth and has steadily maintained its position as one of the highest foreign exchange earners for the county.
Gorilla tourism, in particular, has brought significant benefits to the tourists, Rwanda as a whole, to the various levels of governments and the local communities.
The relative ease of habituating mountain gorillas, facilitated by the temperate climate and benign habitat, among a number of factors, have contributed to the success of gorilla tourism in Rwanda.
Closely related to humans, mountain gorillas share many of the behavioral traits we possess, including hugging, playing, laughing, and throwing whatever is nearby when mad.
With these human-like traits, they become the main attraction for tourists visiting the country. Gorilla tourism also plays a catalytic role in the sense that some of the people who primarily come to see the mountain gorilla end up visiting other wildlife areas and tourist attractions as well.
Mountain gorillas stand out from the three other gorilla subspecies because of their thick coats, which insulates them from the cold of their cloud forest homes.
There are only two places on Earth where mountain gorillas exist: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Virunga Volcanoes in the equatorial African nations of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Female gorillas give birth approximately every three to five years, a relatively low birth rate that could be a factor to the small population of this species in the globe; in a 30- to 40-year lifetime, a female mountain gorilla might have just three to eight offspring.
As part of the efforts to conserve the rare apes, Rwanda over a decade ago launched the gorilla-naming ceremony (Kwita Izina) and this year’s ceremony was held last week.
Kwita Izina ceremony has since inception attracted a number of international personalities and celebrities where the mountain gorilla babies born in the previous 12 months are named.
The gorilla babies have been named, among others, by the President of the Republic of Rwanda and First Lady, Bill Gates, Ted Turner, Hollywood stars like Natalie Portman, ambassadors, international conservationists and performing artists.
The ceremonies provide a good platform to promote the destination to Rwanda as well as gorilla protection and conservation. Today, the naming is usually accompanied by several other events, including a cross-country cycling tour and a conservation conference.
This year’s edition of the annual mountain gorilla-naming ceremony was held in Kinigi, at the foothills of the Volcanoes Mountains in Northern Province.
This 11th annual Kwita Izina, under the theme “conserving now and for the future”, was attended by a huge number of both local and international audience and included various activities with a climax of giving names to over 20 baby gorillas.
These names play a significant role in monitoring each individual gorilla in their families and habitat.
The practice has brought lots of positive attention both locally and internationally about the importance of protecting the mountain gorillas in the renowned Virunga Mountains in the north of the country.
It is no doubt that the mountains gorillas, who share with the human beings 98 per cent of the genes, are our national treasure.
They put our country on the global map where it is stated that about a third of the world’s total mountain gorillas’ population lives in Rwanda. This is a valuable record for our country that we have to protect for the current and future generations.
The already existing government’s commitment in conservation as it was reflected in the just concluded Kwita Izina has brought forth mountain gorillas’ continued increase in number over the years; we must also carry the mantle of conserving, protecting and celebrating this treasurable species of primates!