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Rwanda has got a new additional habitat for the mountain gorillas, rare apes that are found in only in the Central East African tropical rain forests.

The 27.8 hectares of land was donated by the African Wildlife Fund and will be incorporated into the Volcanoes National Park, one of the three Virunga parks that protect the mountain gorillas.

Rwanda’s minister of Industry and Trade, Vincent Munyeshaka appreciated the development of adding 27.8 hectares to the buffer zone of the Volcanoes National Park. He added on that it would add value to the conservation of the mountain gorillas, and also contribute greatly to the development of tourism, the largest foreign exchange earner of Rwanda.

“In fact, for the last six consecutive years, tourism has become the number one foreign currency earner, and the Volcanoes National parks has been a contributor,” he said.

To illustrate, he said volcanoes National Park in 2016 received 32,818 visitors who directly generated US$16 million, while between 2007 and 2016, Volcanoes National Park generated over US$115 million.

Since 2006, over 298,000 tourists have visited the Volcanoes National Park. An average number of 29,000 tourists have visited the Park between 2011 and 2016.

Munyeshyaka said communities around the park have also benefited directly from more than 40% of its total contribution and this has been achieved through support provided by Rwanda development Board (RDB).

Clare Akamanzi, the Chief Executive Officer of RDB which is in charge of the habitats, said despite its extraordinary biodiversity, the Volcanoes National Park, on the Rwandan side of the Virunga Massif, is relatively small, covering only 160km2 which results in Mountain Gorilla’s leaving the park, causing conflict with farmers and making themselves vulnerable to diseases which is the greatest threats to this endangered species.

Speaking during the handover ceremony in Kinigi, Akamanzi said the AWF donation is a major step in the consolidation of Rwanda’s conservation gains.

She described how Rwanda was already gaining from the tourism supported by the gorilla conservation. She said, over the last nine years, up to US$ 107 million have gone to the national coffers revenues from the mountain gorilla conservation and the resulting tourism.

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