Ted Turner has according to information received from Kigali overnight donated a million US Dollars to the Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund. The donation is aimed to allow the Ruhengeri / Musanze based Karisoke Research Centre to widen its reach and set up an outstation in Congo where the lowland gorillas are said to be under intense threat, unlike their cousins the Eastern African mountain gorillas which have for years now enjoyed increased protection.
While mountain gorillas in Rwanda, Congo DR and Uganda have become a major economic factor for the tourism sectors, lowland gorillas have in turn not been habituated, foregoing a source of revenue which can be used to keep the species protected and farmers compensated for loss of crops via the permit fees charged to tourists.
The Karisoke Research Centres focus will therefore, according to a source in Kigali, be centred on the getting crucial information on the habitat and spread of the lowland gorillas, and get relevant data which can then be used to setting up protective measures while tapping into the dormant tourism resource at the same time.
Gorilla tracking is still Rwandas number one tourism activity although the country has diversified the sector with the introduction of new products in recent years, unlike Congo which suffers of negative publicity and keeps mainstream tourism receipts well below the income generated by Rwanda for instance.
Ted Turners generosity has been applauded by conservation circles in Rwanda and there is speculation he may be invited either this year or for next years 10th anniversary of Kwita Izina as one of the namers of recently born young mountain gorilla babies in recognition of his support for gorilla conservation.