January 2018 – Wilderness Safaris is proud to be part of an emerging partnership with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) to expand the Volcanoes National Park and to increase the habitat for Critically Endangered mountain gorillas by 27.8 hectares.
The handover ceremony, crowd and festivities; tree planting by AWF President Kaddu Sebunya with children from Nyabisinde Primary School; views of the Park from Bisate Lodge
As part of the official handover, which took place at the Park on 10 January 2018, 50 hagenia seedlings from the indigenous tree nursery at Wilderness Safaris Bisate Lodge were planted by a number of dignitaries to symbolise the beginning of the reforestation project. Local children from Nyabisinde Primary School recited a poem about the economic benefits of gorilla conservation and tourism for the local community and Chief Park Warden, Prosper Uwingeli, addressed the crowd regarding the importance of the land.
“As Wilderness Safaris and Bisate move forward with the reforestation of the land we are thrilled to imagine the future possibilities for mountain gorillas (and other biodiversity), as well as local communities. We are also proud of our current reforestation efforts at Bisate with over 17 000 indigenous trees planted to date”, commented Chris Roche, Wilderness Safaris Chief Marketing Officer.
Volcanoes National Park, managed by RDB, represents a remarkable story of recovery for Critically Endangered mountain gorillas, with the Park receiving strong support from government. “AWF has worked in Rwanda on mountain gorilla conservation for over two decades. Rwanda’s commitment to wildlife conservation is extraordinary and should be replicated across Africa”, said Kaddu Sebunya, AWF President. Speaking at the event, HE former President of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa, concurred, citing that "As Africans we should be proud of our wildlife and wild lands; and Rwanda continues to set itself apart in conservation”.
By investing in Rwanda, Wilderness Safaris hopes to ensure that its brand of responsible ecotourism makes a real difference to both rural Rwandan people and biodiversity conservation. “Where wilderness and wildlife can prove to have a commercial or social value, they generally garner support for their continued existence. Nowhere is this maxim more apparent than around Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park”, added Roche.
In the closing address, Minister of Trade and Industry, Vincent Munyeshyaka, reported on the importance of conservation in Rwanda, stating that in 2016 alone, gorilla tourism generated US$16.4 million dollars in revenues, 5% of which was shared with the community. This year, communities will get 10% of all tourism revenues following a Cabinet decision to double the share of revenues allocated to people living around parks in a bid to improve their living standards. He ended by emphasising that “Conservation is life; let us undertake it for life".