The New Times (Kigali)

18 January 2013

Rwanda: The Museum of Natural History - Discovery the First Modern House in Rwanda

At 105 years old, the first modern house in Rwanda still stands. Located in Nyarugenge District, about 100 metres from Kigali Central Prison, this famed building was once the home of Dr.Richard Kandt, a German physician, a soldier, an explorer, a scholar, a poet as well as an avid naturalist. He died of tuberculosis on April 29, 1918 in a military hospital in Nuremberg.

Back in 1907 when he was appointed the Resident Governor of Rwanda for the German Empire, he chose one of Nyarugenge's hills to become his home and headquarters. It's here the origin of Kigali as the Capital city of Rwanda can be traced.

Standing on the hill on which this magnificent house stands, it's easy to see why the Doctor selected this place. The atmosphere is serene and you can hear the soft songs of birds around you.

Entering the gate, besides the immaculate looking garden, you come face to face with a huge pink building. The roof has been painted a soft pink; the exterior walls also wear a shade of pink and white giving it a clean welcoming look. At the side of the main entrance as if on guard, lay an elephant's skull with its tusks still intact giving you glimpse of what you should expect to see once you are inside.

In 2008, the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda converted the historic residence into a Museum of Natural History in order to increase Rwandans' exposure to the natural sciences as well as to educate visitors from around the world about Rwanda's biological and geological diversity. Besides showing the interdependence between people and their environment, the museum also showcases Kandt's work and many other natural wonders of the country.

The museum is divided into wings. The north wing features Rwanda's biology exhibits. Here you will find beautiful specimens of indigenous species ranging from beautifully colored birds to strange and exotic reptiles. You can also see several of Rwanda's mammalian occupants, from small rodents to skulls of mountain gorillas.

The rear of the museum is dedicated to volcanism. Here you will learn about the Great Rift Valley and all its tectonic plates and volcanic might. You'll learn how the great volcanoes in Rwanda's northwest were created, what makes them popular and how people have learned to survive and thrive in their imposing shadows for countless generations.

The south wing of the museum is mostly dedicated to Rwanda's natural resources and the history of how those resources were mined from the countless hills. On display are numerous gems and minerals along with maps showing where they are distributed around the country.

There is also a room dedicated to hydrology, or the study of the movement and distribution of water (i.e. lake, rivers). According to a top official from The Institute of National Museums of Rwanda, the museum is currently working on adding a couple of new exhibits such as a complete skeleton of an African elephant that was recently discovered buried near Nyungwe Rainforest and a gigantic crocodile that was recently killed at Lake Muhazi.

The museum is open daily starting from 8am - 6pm, with the entrance fee of Rwf1000 for nationals and Rwf500 for local students. International visitors pay Rwf5, 000, while foreign students are charged Rwf3, 000.

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