Conservation and economic development are not mutually exclusive but rather go hand in hand to ensure sustainable transformation, President Paul Kagame has said.
The Head of State delivered the message yesterday while officiating at the twelfth edition of the gorilla naming ceremony, best known as Kwita Izina, in Northern Province’s Kinigi Village on the edge of the Volcanoes National Park.
Yesterday’s Kwita Izina brought together more than 40,000 residents of Musanze District and 300 international guests from 15 countries.
President Kagame challenged the belief that growth must be at the expense of the environment.
“It’s not a trade off between economic growth and protecting our environment; you don’t choose one and leave the other because they complement each other,” he said, addressing thousands of Musanze residents and guests gathered in Kinigi.
“We are here to ensure that our development is based on conserving what nature has gifted us and it is every Rwandan’s role,” he said.
He emphasised that it was possible to revive endangered species as well as conserve those that are thriving.
Kagame commended what the country has so far achieved in looking after its national parks and the environment in general but also called on Rwandans to do much more in that area.
“We still have a long way to go but we can be proud of where we are today. It is proof that we have the ability to achieve our goals,” he said.
“Today is not only about naming gorillas, it is about reminding ourselves that development must be founded on protecting our environment,”Kagame added.
Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is home to 480 gorillas, says the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
At yesterday’s event, 22 baby gorillas were named, bringing the total number of gorillas named since 2005 to 238.
The 22 baby gorillas received names that reflect the country’s conservation efforts and wishes for the good health of the animals and national prosperity.
The names given to the baby gorillas include; Ndi Umunyarwanda (I am Rwandan), Tunganirwa (be fortunate), Ingemwe (seeds), Umuhate (courage), Icyemezo (decision), Igikombe (award or cup), Ntamupaka (no borders), Ndizihiwe (I am happy), Hobe (a formal greeting in the Rwandan culture), Kwigira (self-reliance) and Umuhuza (a peacemaker), among others.
Different conservationists who named the gorillas briefly explained the idea behind their chosen names.
Dr Timothy Tear, from Australia, named a baby gorilla “Umuhate” and said that “conservation is life”.
Frank Matsaert, the chief executive officer of Trademark East Africa, named a baby gorilla “Icyemezo” and said that “there is a huge amount of what the world can learn from Rwanda in the area of conservation”.
Mary Ann McDonald, from the United States who tracked gorillas in Rwanda 91 times, named a baby gorilla Ntamupaka (no borders) and emphasised that “gorillas have no border” and should be free to be present everywhere in the park.
Rwanda’s prominent musician Jean-Marie Muyango named a baby gorilla Ishimwe, which means “thankful”, and said that Rwandans ought to thank God for protecting and blessing them with big families.
The chief executive of RDB, Francis Gatare, thanked President Kagame for his leadership under which the country has made tremendous achievements in the conservation area.
“We are proud to see the increase in the number of animals in our parks along with the growing number of tourists. All of this would be impossible without the good leadership of our government,” he said.
Over the last 10 years, the number of tourists arriving in Rwanda has more than doubled, from about 500,000 to 1.3 million last year, resulting in over $300 million in tourism receipts and marking a 11% annual average growth since 2007.
Since 2005, an estimated 2.6 billion Rwandan Francs has been invested in 480 projects countrywide through the tourism revenue sharing scheme that benefit the communities around the parks.
President Kagame concluded his remarks by thanking conservationists.