“The Tourism sector in Rwanda employs over 350 tour guides and operators. This shows the urgent need for sustainable tourism-based businesses, and the sure way to achieve this is through responsible tourism and conservation. Safeguarding mountain gorillas is therefore key,” stated Yves Ngenzi, Regional Coordinator for East African Tourism Platform and Rwanda Tourism Chamber Staff.
Mr. Yves made these remarks at a Gorilla FriendlyTM pledge training for tour guides and operators organized by IGCP in Kigali on 9th and 10th December 2021. The Gorilla Friendly™ Pledge is an on-line awareness raising campaign with the aim to encourage all tourists to pledge to observe gorilla tourism rules during treks and to share their trekking experience after the visit through the Gorilla Friendly™ Pledge website.
Over 100 tour guides and operators and other IGCP conservation partners like Rwanda Development Board, Rwanda Chamber of Tourism, Gorilla Doctors, IUCN participated in this important training.
Officiating over the training, Mr. Eugene Mutangana, Rwanda Development Board Conservation Expert noted that mountain gorilla tourism contributes to almost 14 % of tourism revenues hence the urgent need to protect the primates.
Mr. Eugene challenged the participants to look beyond the gains made from mountain gorilla tourism and rather focus on conserving these primates for future generations, noting that taking the Gorilla FriendlyTM pledge and popularizing it among the tourists is one first step.
At the training, participants were taken through importance of mountain gorilla conservation e.g., increased tourism revenues, threats that face mountain gorillas and ways to mitigate these threats. The training whose aim was to rally tour guides and operators’ support in taking and popularizing the gorillafriendlyTM pledge in their respective connections helped in raising awareness about the great ape visitation rules and how to adhere to them during treks.
Speaking at the training, the Ag. IGCP Director Mr. Wellard Makambo said, protecting mountain gorillas is a collective responsibility that involves all stakeholders including tour guides and tour operators, “If we work together, we can conserve better.”
The tour guides and operators expressed gratitude to IGCP for the information shared, and for taking the time to involve them in this important campaign to promote gorilla visitation rules, promote responsible mountain gorilla tourism and protect gorillas. They pledged support to popularize the campaign, and most importantly to take the pledge and lead by example. As proof of their commitment to the campaign, about 100 participants and additional 124 of their contacts took the Gorilla FriendlyTM Pledge increasing the number from 700 to 954.
“Equipping both tour and park guides with knowledge on gorilla visitation rules is key. It will empower them to ably manage gorilla visits and playful infants and juveniles that curiously come close to visiting teams,” David Mugisha, a tour operator.
To crown the training and officially flag off the campaign the Gorilla Friendly™ Pledge campaign was launched by Mr. Eugene Mutangana as a sign of commitment and support towards the campaign. Notably, the training got good media coverage and visibility: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqdDRboFq2g
In a related development several other actions including dissemination of promotional materials, engagement meetings with key conservation institutions like Rwanda Development board, Rwanda Chamber of Tourism, Rwanda Tours and Travel Association were conducted. The purpose of these meetings was to re-reintroduce the Gorilla FriendlyTM pledge campaign to the institutions and to seek for their support in popularizing it and exhibition of the Gorilla FriendlyTM Pledge initiative at Rwanda’s maiden national tourism week. In the coming months, IGCP will continue to engage partners, park staff, tour operators and guides, hoteliers and tourists on the Gorilla FriendlyTM Pledge and the critical need to observe gorilla visitation rules.
The Gorilla Friendly™ Pledge campaign was initiated by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) and Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN). To know more about the Gorilla Friendly™ Pledge visit www.gorillafriendly.org
The International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) currently consists of Conservation International, Fauna & Flora International and the World Wide Fund for Nature. We recognise that the earth’s survival is dependent on humanity’s ability to maintain a healthy and balanced environment that includes all species of wildlife.