MUSANZE, Rwanda (Xinhua) --
African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) has
donated 27.8 hectares of land to Rwanda’s national park in a bid
to help the country expand habitat for the endangered mountain
gorillas and other wildlife.
The land directly
adjacent to the Volcanoes National Park in Musanze district,
Northern Province, was purchased by AWF last year as part of the
foundation’s efforts to protect mountain gorillas and boost
wildlife conservation in Africa.
According to Rwanda
Development Board (RDB), the 27.8 hectares will be added to the
existing 16,000 hectares that is the current size of the park.
Lying along the
Virunga mountains with 8 ancient volcanoes shared by Rwanda,
Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the park is
home to mountain gorillas, golden monkeys and other wildlife.
Mountain gorilla is a critically endangered species, which has
the population of 880, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
They are found in the Virunga mountains and in the Bwindi
Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, said WWF.
Of those in the
Virunga massif, Rwanda accounts for 62 percent of the mountain
gorilla population, RDB said last May, adding that stringent
conservation measures have significantly contributed to a rise
in gorilla numbers.
The event to
officially hand over the land was held in Kinigi at the
foothills of the volcano mountains in northern Rwanda, which
attracted thousands of people from surrounding communities
including conservation enthusiasts, tourism operators, members
of AWF and Rwandan officials.
President Benjamin Mkapa also attended the event.
Rwanda has taken
great steps in gorilla conservation.
Its most notable gorilla
naming event has led to an increase in the number of gorillas
hence becoming a major tourism attraction to the country, said AWF President Kaddu Sebunya at the vent.
“AWF recognizes that
if mountain gorillas are going to survive in the long term, this
park must be strategically protected, and we are committed to
supporting Rwanda in conserving these endangered species,” he
through proactive government policies, community involvement and
open governance, Rwanda is demonstrating that development and
conservation are not mutually exclusive.
According to RDB,
through conservation efforts mountain gorilla numbers in
Volcanoes National Park have increased from 285 in 1978 to 480
in 2010. Between 2003 and 2010 gorilla numbers increased by 26.3
percent, it said.
“The increase in the
gorilla population has led to a decreased adequate habitat.
donation is a major step in the consolidation of conservation
gains, “ said Clare Akamanzi, CEO of RDB.
National Park has decreased by 54 percent since its
establishment in 1925, according to RDB.
According to her,
the survival of the rare mountain gorillas in the longer term
would depend on adequate habitat, intensified protection and
conservation, sustained monitoring and community engagement.
remains the backbone of Rwanda’s tourism and conservation
industry. In the last nine years, gorilla tourism has generated
107 million U.S dollars to Rwanda, said Akamanzi on Wednesday.
From 2006 to 2017,
over 298,000 tourists have visited the Volcanoes National Park,
said RDB. Some 29,000 tourists visited the park every year on
average between 2011 and 2016, statistics from RDB showed.