Of course, we now know that we share 98.3% of our genetic code with gorillas, making them our closest cousins after chimpanzees and bonobos. So, while my ten-year-old self was heartbroken to learn of Dian’s murder, she left a powerful legacy. For there were just 280 gorillas left in the wild then compared to the more than 1 000 today.
Similarly, Rwanda then was one of Africa’s poorest countries and plagued by political turmoil that would see it endure a shocking and devastating genocide a decade later. Today, Rwanda has not only overcome its turbulent past but is one of the continent’s most celebrated economic success stories, welcoming over 1.6 million international visitors last year.
Photo taken in 1992
This year’s 16th Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Ceremony will be held virtually under the theme ‘Conservation and Sustainable Tourism – A Foundation for Future Generations.’ As Belise Kariza, the Rwanda Development Board’s Chief Tourism Officer said earlier this month: ‘Having Kwita Izina virtually this year gives us the opportunity to celebrate those who are at the forefront of protecting the endangered mountain gorillas and share Rwanda’s conservation success with Rwandans. We hope to inspire everyone to visit our beautiful country and experience the wonder of trekking to see the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Rwanda is open for tourism, and the sector underpins so much of our conservation work. That’s why we are proud of the impact of sustainable tourism on our national development and environmental protection efforts.”
With updates from the field on how rangers, vets and researchers work on a daily basis to protect gorillas as well as a handover ceremony of the community project that the Rwanda Development Board has initiated to improve access to potable water for the communities living around Nyungwe National Park, it’s well worth watching if you’ve experienced the wonder of a close encounter with the gorillas, or if it’s on your radar for your next trip to Africa.
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