Bwindi Reopens for Tourism

Bwindi Reopens for Tourism

After a month of mourning for the eight tourists and the park warden killed by Rwandan rebels in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, authorities reopened the Ugandan park to visitors Apr. 1.

The Uganda Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry (MTTI) declared the area safe after security measures were improved. A spokesman also said the government is committed to conserving the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit Bwindi.

Armed guards protected the 12 foreigners, including three Americans, who were the first tourists to visit Bwindi since the Mar. 1 attack by Rwandan rebels.

Meanwhile, park rangers have been tracking the gorillas to be sure they are unharmed. "The forest is a very good area for the rebels to hide, but it is also the only home to the mountain gorillas," Annette Lanjouw, AWF's regional coordinator for the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP), told Reuters news service. She said the gorillas could be harmed in attempts to flush the rebels out of the forest.

The IGCP, which is jointly sponsored by AWF, the World Wide Fund for Nature and Fauna and Flora International, is continuing its work in Bwindi to safeguard the mountain gorillas.

The IGCP is also working in Rwanda's Volcano National Park, which, according to the program's field staff, will reopen soon for mountain-gorilla viewing. The park was closed to tourists two years ago because of instability caused by rebel activity in the area.