The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has reassured tourist intending to visit sites in the Northern Province that despite wild fires that engulfed the edge of the park over the weekend, the Volcanoes National Park is safe to visit.
In a statement issued Monday by RDB, Rosette Rugamba the Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) said that, “the area gutted by the fires is not in proximity of the gorilla habitat so tourism activities are going on as usual without any interruptions.”
Press reports indicated that hundreds of animals including rare mountain gorillas are fleeing Uganda and Rwanda to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following raging bush fires over the weekend.
The fires started on Sunday in the Northern Province mountainous bamboo-forested enclave that also straddles the DRC and Uganda. The ecological zone is home to the world’s 720 remaining mountain gorillas.
The RDB statement quoted Chief Park warden Prosper Uwingeli of the Volcanoes National Park as saying that the fire was suspected to have been sparked off by honey harvesters in Cyanika, Nyagahinga cell, which is 20 Km away from the closet Gorilla habitat.
The statement also said that there are concerted efforts from government agencies including the army, the fire brigade the police and air force helicopter with aerial water pumping system have been applied to stop the fire from spreading further.
RDB officials also said that through the Trans-boundary Collaboration, efforts to stop the fire, are still going on and respective wildlife agencies in Uganda and the DRC have been alerted and.
”Combined efforts are underway to stop the fire completely,” the statement said.
Moses Mapesa, the operations Director of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) is quoted in the Ugandan press as saying, “We are working with the respective armies in Uganda and Rwanda and other stakeholders to manage the situation.”
Despite the immediate damage, Mapesa was however quoted saying that the fires in the long run, “help the system get rid of excessive biomass and dangerous species like some fungi, thus giving way for better and healthier species to emerge.”
The tourism sector is the country’s number one foreign exchange earner attracting 980,577 visitors last year and fetching $209 million as revenue receipts.