Rwanda’s rhino population grows, tourists expected to increase

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A container holding one of the five zoo-born eastern black rhinos is lowered by crane into an enclosure being released in Akagera National Park, eastern Rwanda. (AFP)
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A black rhinoceros, that was shipped to Rwanda from Zoo Safari Park Dvur Kralove in the Czech Republic, is seen inside its pen at the Akagera National Park, in eastern Rwanda. (Reuters)
Updated 25 June 2019

Rwanda’s rhino population grows, tourists expected to increase

  • There are only about 1,000 black rhinos left in the wild, Jes Gruner, the Akagera National Park manager, said
  • In 2017 tourism earned Rwanda $437 million

KIGALI: Rhino keepers who successfully delivered five endangered black rhinos to Rwanda spent months hugging and coddling them inside their transport boxes to prepare them for the journey, a rhino handler said as the animals were freed on Monday.
The two male and three female eastern black rhinoceroses were flown from Safari Park Dour Kralove zoo in the Czech Republic, where they had been getting to know each other after arriving from separate European parks.
“The preparation process took several months. It started in autumn last year when two animals were brought here from Denmark and England. They started to bond, which always takes weeks because black rhinos are very alert and nervous animals,” said rhino handler Jaromir Sejnoha from the Dvur Kralove Safari Park.
“In the final phase (of preparations) the rhino is trained to stay inside the box for several minutes. We feed them and hug them in there, so they aren’t scared of the box and become accustomed to it, and so on the day of transportation they don’t get nervous and the whole transportation goes smoothly.”
There are only about 1,000 black rhinos left in the wild, Jes Gruner, the Akagera National Park manager, said. The new arrivals mean Rwanda is home to 25 of them.
Tourism is a key foreign exchange earner in the East African nation, home to mountain gorillas and the so-called “Big Five” African game animals — lions, rhinos, elephants, buffalo, and leopard.
“Every year our tourism numbers are going up and bringing these rhinos I am sure will help,” Gruner said.
The park received 44,000 visitors who generated over $2 million last year, Gruner said.
In 2017 tourism earned Rwanda $437 million. Clare Akamanzi, chief executive of the Rwanda Development Board, said 2018 numbers were not yet ready due to a change of methodology.
The push for tourist dollars in not without controversy. The government’s 2018 deal to pay British football club Arsenal £30 million ($38 million) to have “Visit Rwanda” emblazoned on the team’s jersey was criticized by politicians in some donor nations who questioned whether it was a good use of money by a government still heavily dependent on foreign aid.


Mickey Mouse fans ‘over the moon’ as Tokyo Disney reopens

Updated 01 July 2020

Mickey Mouse fans ‘over the moon’ as Tokyo Disney reopens

  • The resort will operate at a 50 percent capacity for the foreseeable future, while parades and shows remain suspended
  • Tokyo, which has seen the highest number of coronavirus cases in Japan, allowed amusement parks to reopen in mid-June

TOKYO: Tokyo Disney Resort welcomed visitors on Wednesday for the first time in four months after being closed due to the coronavirus, with fans practicing social distance as they returned to see Mickey Mouse and other beloved characters.
Visitors in face masks queuing on floor marks clapped as the gates of the Magic Kingdom reopened, and were encouraged to clean hands, pay without cash and avoid screaming while enjoying one of Japan’s largest theme parks.
The resort will operate at a 50 percent capacity for the foreseeable future, while parades and shows remain suspended. But the new norm did not dampen the enthusiasm of Disney lovers like university student Momoka Mitsui.
“I’m over the moon just to be able to get inside Disneyland,” said the 18-year old who visited the park with a friend, both sporting face masks and matching Mickey Mouse headbands.
Tokyo, which has seen the highest number of coronavirus cases in Japan, allowed amusement parks to reopen in mid-June — later than those in some other regions — after the government lifted the national state of emergency in late May.
Other precautions being taken to protect against the disease at the park include temperature screening and the mandatory use of face masks, according to operations procedures published on the Tokyo Disney Resort’s website last week.
Staff members are also asking guests to refrain from screaming loudly on rides, in accordance with guidelines first published by Japan’s main amusement park associations in May.
Masahiko Endo, a 37-year-old care worker from Tokyo, said he agreed with the decision to limit the number of guests entering the park located some 15 kilometers away from central Tokyo.
“I hope the pandemic will be contained soon, so that Disney can go back to being a place anyone can visit,” he said, clinching a Duffy the Disney Bear toy.
Tokyo Disney Resort, consisting of both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, is the third Disney-themed park globally to reopen following the coronavirus pandemic, according to operator Oriental Land.
It attracted over 32.5 million visitors annually in 2018 and had sales of $4.06 billion in fiscal 2019.