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Wednesday, April 22, 2009



Alberta Parks use Under a new 10-year plan, Albertans are getting the chance to help the government decide how to balance environmental protection for its parks with demand for more campsites and off-road trails. THE CANADIAN PRESS

In search of mountain gorillas

A correspondent who covered the Rwandan genocide returns LYNN THOMPSON/FOR METRO WORLD NEWS

JEREMY THOMSON for Metro World News


ver wondered what to get your wife for her birthday? It was Lynn’s 50th and I wanted to make it something special. Then it came to me — gorillas! Mountain gorillas remain one of the greatest and rarest wildlife wonders of the world. With just 700 left on the planet, seeing them is something very special. We were 8, 000 feet up in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park when our guides finally located them. Gasping in the thin mountain air, we’d clambered upwards for over an hour through thick, lush nettles, thistles and bamboo, when we emerged into a clearing and saw the Kwitonda family. It was a delightful scene — the giant silverback, his wives and babies, eating, preening and playing just feet away, seemingly unfazed by our presence. Visiting time is limited to one hour a day and just eight visitors are allowed to meet each of the seven habituated gorilla families — so only 56 lucky tourists get to see them per day. This is to prevent these splendid primates from getting stressed or catching diseases. After all, they have 93 per cent of human DNA: They can get colds, just like us. It was the American researcher Dian Fossey — whose work in Volcanoes National Park inspired the movie Gorillas in the Mist — who pioneered gorilla conservation here in the late 1960s. The ecotourism that arose from her project was going well until Rwanda became engulfed in tribal genocide exactly 15 years ago this month. Nearly a million people died in that brutal attempt at ethnic cleansing, horrific events I reported at the time as Sky News’ Africa Correspondent. Although roving militias

Sky News anchorman Jeremy Thompson poses with a family of Rwandan mountain gorillas in the background.


Officials place strict limits on the number of visitors who may go to see the mountain gorillas on any given day.



Getting there • Kigali-based Thousand Hills Expeditions arranges transportation, accommodation and payment of park fees; visit thousand or contact Jacqui Sebangeni, •

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Go Green and throngs of refugees encroached on gorilla habitat during those violent times, remarkably only one creature is known to have been killed. Soon after the new government sent army patrols to help park rangers protect the gorillas. Gorilla tourism was able to restart in 1997 and has been growing ever since. Rwanda’s Tourism Ministry recently agreed to a trans-boundary conservation plan with Uganda and Congo — the two neighboring countries where gorillas are also found. Another major initiative has been community



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Jeremy Thompson visits a genocide memorial.

tourism, a joint venture between Rwanda’s government and the private sector, backed by foreign NGOs, designed to plough money back into the local communities and improve their quality of life through better education and healthcare. Returning after all these years, I was struck by the peaceful order of today’s Rwanda. The genocide is not forgotten. Almost every village has its own memorial — the skulls in the window are a grim reminder of the past. But

there is a collective determination to move forward as a united country, no longer divided by destructive tribalism. Now the streets of this beautiful land in the heart of Africa are filled with the laughter of children — a new generation free from violence. And the welcome we were given couldn’t have been warmer or more hospitable. Rwanda soon hopes to be known for its gorillas, not its genocide.


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Jeremy Thompson is an anchorman for Sky News.

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a garden. Ride your bike. Remem- ber the oceans, the bees, the worms — they are your neighbours ... and our heroes. Albert Einstein famousl...

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a garden. Ride your bike. Remem- ber the oceans, the bees, the worms — they are your neighbours ... and our heroes. Albert Einstein famousl...

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