Two game rangers were, on Sunday, shot dead and another injured in Akagera National Park, by suspected poachers. Two hippos and a warthog were found dead close to the scene of the shooting.
Tourism is one of the country’s leading foreign exchange earners, and has played a major role in attracting visitors to Rwanda, as well as helping foreigners understand the dynamics of the country.
Whereas poaching may not be new in our national parks, the recent killings demonstrate the extent to which these criminals are willing to go, to carry out their illegal activities.
The attack on game rangers shows that poachers are not only a threat to the wildlife and economy, but to the lives of those guarding our tourist attractions.
Police and other authorities should do everything within their means to ensure that the suspects are apprehended and brought to book.
And, to forestall similar incidents in the future, the surrounding communities should be massively sensitized about the dangers of poaching, and encouraged to adopt community policing techniques to protect the park.
In addition, tourism authorities should ensure that people living around these game parks, directly, benefit from the revenues generated from park activities. This will enhance a sense of ownership, further encouraging them to protect the national parks and their habitats.
And, for the national parks that are close to the country’s borders, authorities should engage their counterparts in the neighbouring countries, on how best they can help track and prosecute cross-border poachers.
Poaching is a barbaric act that must be brought to an end immediately.