“Because they attract so much attention globally. So many people come to visit them, it would be a shame if the visitors came to see them and there aren’t any gorillas to see”, Twagirimana Innocent, Community Tourist Guide at the Gorilla Guardians Village, Kinigi, Rwanda.
During the month of May we took time off to learn more from some of the community persons that we work with why they are interested in mountain gorilla conservation. Speaking to them helped us further appreciate their understanding and appreciation of mountain gorilla conservation. According to Emmanuel Munyanshozi, a porter in Kinigi Rwanda, mountain gorillas are his source of income. “They offer me employment as a porter to the tourists that come to track them. And through this job I have earned money that has bettered my standards of living. I am able to pay my household bills including medical and school fees for my children”. Similarly, Francois Ndugutse a farmer and President of Kiaki ex-poachers’ Cooperative in Kinigi, Rwanda notes that his interest is derived from the fact that mountain gorillas are of high value and the revenue generated from them benefits both the country and the locals living around the park like him.
The females also had this to say; Mukanoheli Solina, a farmer in Kinigi Rwanda, says “because they are lovely, magnificent beings that deserve to be conserved and seen by many generations to come”, while, Tumusiime Fausta a weaver in Nteko, Uganda reveals that “because they bring in tourists that buy my products, from which I earn money to take care of my family and boost my business”. And interestingly Lydia Nyirankunzi, a housewife, farmer and conservationist in Gitenderi, Uganda adds that she is interested in protecting mountain gorillas because they not only bring in visitors but also revenue and connections to the world outside her village of Gitenderi.
Clearly the role and contribution of mountain gorillas in the improvement of the livelihoods of the people can’t be underscored. It is also evident that conservation awareness has been grounded amongst the park adjacent communities. It can therefore be said that the community’s support towards gorilla conservation isn’t a ‘band wagon’ thing but something they really understand and attach value to. This kind of informed conservation efforts guarantees sustainable conservation for the park and the mountain gorilla.