Tue, Jun 28, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Rwanda turns to adoption for gorillas


Rwanda has come up with a new adopt-a-baby scheme to preserve its population of highly endangered mountain gorillas, the cornerstone of the country's fledgling tourism industry ever since the genocide of 1994.

More than 20,000 visitors every year happily fork out US$375 for the privilege of spending one hour slithering through bamboo thickets on a muddy mountainside with the animals.

An estimated 700 mountain gorillas are found in the wild, about one-third of them in Rwanda, the remainder in a continuation of the same range of mountains in Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

At the weekend Rwanda's national parks authority raised US$850,000 for gorilla conservation by putting 29 animals up for "corporate adoption."

"The prices [for adoption] range from US$5,000 to US$50,000," said Rica Rwigamba, executive director of the Rwanda National Parks and Tourism office.

Twenty-nine gorillas were named in the town of Ruhengeri in an official ceremony of the sort that is traditionally carried out for human babies in Rwanda. Formal adoptions were solemnized in Gisenyi.

A company that adopts a gorilla gets to use that animal's name and face in its advertising campaigns. A US$5,000 investment buys the right for one year.

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