(these are some exerpts from an article I wrote. )
Saturday June 5th 2010 was a memorable day in Rwanda that highlighted the importance of environmental conservation and unique ways of doing so. The pace-setting African country hosted World Environment Day (WED) 2010 and held a joint celebration for Kwita Izina –Rwanda’s annual naming ceremony for baby mountain gorillas born in Volcanoes National Park in the Musanze District of Rwanda. Many special guests were in attendance at the ceremony. Including His Excellency Paul Kagame, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, and Hollywood actor Don Cheadle. Cheadle won an Academy Award for his lead role as genocide survivor Paul Rusesabagina in the 2004 movie “Hotel Rwanda” and was recently appointed the position of UN Environment Programme Goodwill Ambassador. He participated in the Kwita Izina Festivities, announcing the winning name for one of the newest members of mountain gorilla family.
In addition to coinciding with WED 2010, the significance of this year’s Kwita Izina ceremony lay in its proximity to the recent and sudden deaths of four mountain gorillas. They are believed to have died because of extreme cold. This brings attention to the delicate nature of Rwanda’s wildlife in the face of the changing climate.
Though Rwanda is home to many diverse species including the mountain gorilla, its delicate landscapes are suffering from degradation due to dry spells, heavy rain causing erosion, and also direct human activity such as cultivation of marginal lands. According to WWF Senior Program Officer, Matthew Lewis, the destruction of natural habitats through deforestation and other human activities have forced the gorillas to move further up the mountains to higher altitudes where the temperatures are much colder than what they are accustomed to.
The Government of Rwanda has recognized of the potentially devastating effects environmental degradation in Rwanda and has responded by putting in place several initiatives and policies to protect the environment. Among them are the establishment of the Rwanda Environmental Management Authority, the development of various biodiversity and wildlife protection policies.
UNEP choose Rwanda to host WED 2010 because of its rich biodiversity and these new and relevant environmental initiatives and policies.
The theme this year for WED was ‘Many Species. One Planet. One Future.’