Gorilla tourism in Rwanda is a true successful conservation story, a dream of passion initiated by Dian Fossey a famous American primatologist who foresaw that making mountain gorillas a tourism object would protect the lives of mountain gorillas and promote their sustainability. As such there has been a notably steady increase in the number of mountain gorillas in the national park as each year a number of more than 15 new born gorillas are named at the Kwita izina. Volcanoes national park has the highest number of mountain gorillas up to 400 gorillas hence attracting the highest number of gorilla trekking tours compared Mgahinga and Virunga national park of Congo which together make a virunga conservation area.
The increased gorilla population has therefore called upon the Rwanda development board to put strategies for expanding gorilla habitat in the coming years. The size of volcanoes national park has now reduced to 160 square kilometers a great reduction from 33,870 kilometers squared due to encroachment by the people on the national park land. This means to expand the size of volcanoes national park, RDB will relocate local people living near the national park to expand land for volcanoes national park.
Kwita iziina (gorilla naming ceremony) is one of the ways in which Rwanda development board (RDB) hopes to fundraise income for expanding gorilla habitat. Kwiita iziina was launched in 2005 and this years gorilla naming ceremony will take place on 1st September 2017 which w will mark the 13th edition of naming baby gorillas since 2005. Kwita Iziina has served as a platform for promoting education and awareness for regarding gorilla conservation and tourism to all people in Rwanda both locals, national and international travelers. This year, 19 gorilla babies are to be named at the headquarters of volcanoes national park in kinigi.
The conservation efforts by the gorilla naming ceremony in the past years have therefore led to an increase in the number of critically endangered mountain gorillas in volcanoes national park, which has in turn called for more efforts to expand on the gorilla habitat for the growing number of gorillas in the national park. More still, kwita Iziina ceremony has taught people at all levels the importance of gorilla conservation so as to preserve the world’s critically endangered species for sustainable tourism.
Similarly, gorilla-naming ceremony is an opportunity for Rwanda development board and Rwanda government as a whole to thank local communities for the continued valuable support in the conservation of volcanoes national park and wildlife inhabiting there.
The long awaited ceremony is always preceded with a week long series of activities geared towards creating awareness on conservation initiatives as well as stakeholders learning from each other on how to address conservation challenges in volcanoes national park.
More still, kwita iziina is a marketing platform for the Rwanda development board and Rwanda tourism as a whole. During the ceremony, all national and international tour operators who offer relevant packages to Rwanda are invited by the Rwanda development board to support and grace the ceremony. Similarly, various international media are invited to learn more about Rwanda and how it is a unique tourism destination.
Gorilla naming ceremony is always preceded by a series of events such as meetings and conferences with different targets and objectives. For this year, the fundraising gala dinner, which will take place on 29 August 2017 at the Kigali convention center, has been planned. The main focus for the gala dinner is to raise funds for the expansion of gorilla habitat. The following day (27th August 2017), there shall be the kwita iziina conservation and tourism exhibition at Kigali conference and exhibition village. Still there, a 3 days (28 to 30th August) conservation on conservation conference will be held. All these conferences and exhibitions are aimed at creating and sharing awareness concerning wildlife conservation in volcanoes national park and other tourism destination in Rwanda.
Interestingly, there has a been a revision in community benefit from tourism from 5% to 10% by the Rwanda development board as a way of acknowledging community’s contribution towards gorilla conservation. This was after a double increment of single gorilla permits prices from 750usd to 1500usd in May 2017 with immediate effect to be paid by all gorilla trekkers despite the nationality. To improve the standards of living for the local people, Rwanda development board has pledged to improve infrastructures such as roads, clean water facilities, health centers and schools all supported by tourism in the area. A number of community projects have been established which earn roughly 220-million Rwanda francs, which is, shared among the local communities. However, all Rwandans are called upon to be responsible for promoting and supporting all progressive projects for sustainable development and growth in Rwanda.
In conclusion, visit volcanoes national park to watch our close relatives – the mountain gorillas in their natural habitant and directly contribute to their conservation and well being.