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Friday, July 2, 1999 Published at 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK


World: Africa

Rwanda to re-open gorilla park

Opening the park will raise new doubts about safety

Rwanda is to re-open a national park which is home to rare mountain gorillas after two years of closure caused by war.

The decision will inevitably raise again the issue of whether tourists should be encouraged to visit such potentially dangerous areas.

In March, eight western tourists were killed by suspected Hutu rebels while viewing gorillas in Bwindi park, in neighbouring Uganda.

However, the Rwandan tourism office said it believed security in the Virunga national park was now sufficient to allow full scale visits.

Tourism was suspended in June 1997 following attacks by Hutu rebels crossing the border from the DR Congo.

One hour visit

The park will be patrolled by 80 specially trained armed wardens, backed by army troops.

At first, just 16 visitors a day will be allowed in for one hour at a cost of $250 per person.

Rwanda has lost considerable tourist income since the park was shut.

Before civil war broke out in 1984, income from visitors wanting to see the silverback mountain gorillas raised $700,000 a year.

Of the 630 gorillas estimated to exist in the wild throughout the world, some 300 live in the Virunga region.

The park will remain closed on the DR Congo side of the border.





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