Conservationists at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), University of Kent, are celebrating a double achievement – the success of a conservation programme in Rwanda that has helped turn gorilla poachers into ecotourism guides, and a major international award for the programme’s founder, alumnus Edwin Sabuhoro.
Mr Sabuhoro, a Rwandan national, completed his one-year MSc in Conservation and Tourism at DICE in 2006 with a dissertation titled Ecotourism as a potential conservation incentive for local communities around Rwanda's Parc National des Volcans. A dedicated ‘adventurer, naturalist, educator, guide, tracker, ranger and conservationist’, Mr Sabuhoro then put his research findings into action by founding the Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village in Northern Rwanda, a community-based ecotourism initiative that was designed to develop incentives for local people to protect gorilla habitats.
Already, the outcomes of his project are astonishing: local people own 100% of the project; the cultural village has increased ecotourism by 40%, generating a sustainable income base from it; and, most significantly, the poaching of gorillas has been reduced by 60% as the revenue from ecotourism has encouraged local people to protect them.
It is for this reason that Mr Sabuhoro has just been named Young Conservationist of the Year by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s oldest and largest global environmental network.
Nigel Leader-Williams, Professor of Biodiversity Management, Director of DICE and supervisor of Mr Sabuhoro’s dissertation, was among the first to offer congratulations. ‘This is a richly deserved award,’ he said. ‘Edwin and his family made quite exceptional financial sacrifices to complete his MSc. His dedication has paid real dividends for gorillas and people in Rwanda by providing tangible benefits from conservation.’
A sentiment that was reflected by Dr Helen Newing, Convenor of the MSc in Conservation and Tourism, who expressed her delight on hearing the news of Mr Sabuhoro’s award. ‘The MSc programme is designed to provide conservation professionals not only with a sound theoretical training but also with the technical skills and understanding to address practical issues on the ground. Edwin’s achievement is an outstanding example of the kind of practice the programme aims to promote.’
Deanne Adams, Acting President of the International Ranger Foundation said: ‘What impresses me most about Edwin Sabuhoro is that he found a local solution for a serious protected area problem. He established a way to provide a new economy for local communities that also provides new protection for threatened animals in the area – and this is a source of inspiration for other communities.’
David Sheppard, Head of IUCN's Programme on Protected Areas, added: ‘Edwin’s outstanding work has benefited gorillas and local people in Rwanda. It has shown that the involvement of local people with wildlife conservation can result in win-win outcomes.’
Founded in 1989, DICE has trained some 475 postgraduate students from over 80 countries, with many going on to make significant international contributions to conserving flagship species or biodiversity in general.
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