The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: National Museum to Open Zoo

THE FATE of domesticated wild animals is vastly changing as the national museum is proposing that they be given a new home while also enriching the cultural tourism.

A number of these animals, most notably the crested crane, have for long been a domestic member of households across Rwanda, even though they are meant to be free in a wild environment.

According to Alphonse B.Umulisa, the Director General of the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda (INMR), the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has a plan to retrieve these birds and take them to the Kigali-based Natural History Museum to join other cultural patrimony on exhibition.

"We have them as part of the natural zoo we are setting up and we aim to raise awareness of the cultural aspect of Rwanda. Also, bringing them to the zoo will promote their safety."

As far as safety is concerned, Rica Rwigamba, the director general of Tourism and Conservation Department in RDB said, they have already agreed with the institute on requirements regarding the area where the birds will be located and their meals, among other issues. She revealed that her office is working on a draft law on wildlife to reinforce protection and conservation of animals and sanctions against people who threaten their wellbeing.

"It's illegal to domesticate whatever animal," she said, adding that they are sensitising the public to report possession of a wild animal so that it can be retrieved and taken to a decent natural habitat.

While the number of affected animals was not established, Rwigamba insisted, people have to willingly respect the wild animals' right to live in their decent place.

Once at Natural History Museum, located at Kandht House in Kigali, said Umulisa, these birds will join ten snakes and other small animals which will initially make up the zoo and increase the number of visitors.

According to records from IMNR, between January and June of last year, 151,000 visitors were recorded to have visited all the five museums.

IMNR, which is targeting 600,000 visitors in the coming years, charges between Rfw 500 and Rfw6,000 for each visit to a museum.

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