By Dr. Wolfgang Thome

A one day meeting in Kigali yesterday was dedicated to the conservation of the endangered mountain gorilla, of which less than 800 now survive in the mountainous border region of Rwanda, Uganda and the DR Congo. A large number of conservationists but also interested groups of the tourism industry and society at large assembled in Kigali yesterday to discuss, and map out a road map ahead under the theme 'Challenges and Opportunities for Gorilla Conservation in the Greater Virunga Massive'.

The United Nations have declared this as the 'Year of the Gorilla' and it is hoped that the many activities in Rwanda, like the culmination of a week long series of festivities, meetings and seminars towards 'Kwita Izina' on Saturday will help to focus on sustainable coexistence of conservation and economic utilisation of this God gifted wildlife resource, for which Rwanda has become known across the world.

As the country rose from the ashes of the 1994 genocide 15 years ago, sustainable tourism was at the forefront of economic activity and development and the tourism sector now ranks high amongst other mainstream sectors.

This was the second such conference meeting of its kind to be held alongside 'Kwita Izina', itself now in its fifth year, and will according to RDB / ORTPN sources become an annual event too, as the findings and recommendations of the meeting would be absorbed into policy decisions and added conservations measures taken by ORTPN in the future. Rosette Rugamba, Head of ORTPN and Deputy CEO of the Rwanda Development Board, who also spoke at the event, reaffirmed that while gorilla tracking still made up the bulk of tourist visitors activities in the country, efforts were underway to diversify the tourism products on offer and in particular the Nyungwe National Park was starting to receive more visitors as a result of extra supporting marketing activities. The main 'naming' ceremony for the recently born gorilla babies will be held on Saturday near the 'Volcanoes National Park' or 'Parc de Volcanoes', since Rwanda is a country where both English and French are common languages, besides the main vernacular 'kinyarwanda'.