KIGALI - The Executive Director of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner, has commended the Rwandan Government for its political will in preserving the environment.
Steiner, who was speaking at the launch of the latest UNEP report - The last stand of the Gorilla – said that Rwanda’s efforts should serve as an example to other countries.
“This is why we (conservationists) are in Rwanda, we want to highlight what they are doing as far the environment conservation is concerned,” he said.
Conservationists from different parts of the world had gathered in Rwanda over the weekend to commemorate the World Environment Day, which was jointly celebrated with the annual Gorilla naming Ceremony, Kwita Izina, that was marked at the feet of Virunga Mountains.
Despite the report showing that Gorillas risk being extinct, Steiner said that the fragile recovery of mountain gorilla population in the Virunga range and volcanoes national park is evidence that preservation of the mountain gorillas can be successful.
According to the report, the population of the critically endangered gorillas in Virunga, especially within Rwanda’s volcanoes Park, has increased by 17 per cent over the past fifteen years.
This has been possible through the intensified patrolling and conservation efforts carried out by the government and supported by international conservation groups and UN agencies.
The Minister of Environment, Stanislas Kamanzi, said that the government of Rwanda had made it an obligation that some of the money generated from Gorilla tourism is brought back into the community, as one way of helping the people living around the parks understand the importance of preserving the environment.
Approximately 7 percent of the gorilla ecotourism revenue is invested in community projects.
The report shows that, though previous projections by UNEP in 2002 suggested that only 10 percent of the original ranges in the region would remain by 2030, the estimates are too optimistic given the intensification of pressures which include illegal logging, mining, charcoal production and increased demand for bush meat.
The report advocated for urgent action in strengthening the enforcement of the environmental laws and countering poaching as a means of defending gorillas and their natural habitat.