September 3, 2008

Rwandan Ecologist Wins Global Conservation Award

Text of report in English by Innocent Gahigana entitled "Rwandan wins global conservation award" published by Rwandan newspaper The New Times website on 3 September

A Rwandan ecologist, Edwin Sabuhoro, 35, has earned himself a global Young Conservationist Award for his self-driven conservation efforts.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas and the International Ranger Federation (IRF) announced the award last week The news about Sabuhoro's triumph was welcomed yesterday as a model for all citizens, by State Minister for Environment, Water and Mines, Prof Bikoro Munyanganizi.

"Everyone who participates in an activity that saves the country's natural resources deserves such recognition," said Bikoro, urging all Rwandans to play a leading role in that.

According to an IUCN statement, Sabuhoro helped transform former Mountain Gorilla poachers into tourist guides under Iby'Iwacu Cultural Village programme.

He developed incentives for local people to protect gorillas' habitat by founding such community-based tourism initiatives in Musanze District, Northern Rwanda.

And it is reported that the revenue from tourists who visit the site has encouraged communities to protect the gorillas and develop small-scale businesses.

"Today, the outcomes of the project are astonishing. Local people own 100 per cent of the project," the statement reads in part.

"The cultural village has increased tourism arrivals by 40 per cent and has generated a sustainable income base for the village. Poaching of gorillas has been reduced by 60 per cent," it continues.

Efforts to contact Sabuhoro were fruitless, but a statement attributed to him says, "I feel extremely proud and excited to be awarded the Young Conservationist Award.

"I know just how much this means to continuing my efforts, but also for inspiring other young conservationists in Rwanda, the African continent and the whole world. I would like to express my utmost appreciation to IUCN and IRF for this award

Sabuhoro was invited to become a member of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas and its Young Professionals Working Group.

"What impresses me most about him is that he found a local solution for a serious protected area problem," Deanne Adams, Acting President of the IRF was quoted as saying.

"He established a way to provide a new economy for local communities that also provides new protection for threatened animals in the area. This is a source of inspiration for other communities," he underscored.

Sabuhoro holds a Master's Degree in Conservation and Tourism from Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent, United Kingdom.

He also holds an Environmental Law Degree with specialization in environmental conservation law from the National University of Rwanda.

The Young Conservationist Award is a joint initiative launched by IUCN's World Commission on Protected Areas and the IRF.

In 2004, the two organizations signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote collaboration in protected areas and the rangers responsible for their protection.

Originally published by The New Times website, Kigali, in English 3 Sep 08.

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