Hero for the Gorillas: Eugene Rutagarama


Mountain Gorilla of Rwanda: Less Than 800 of Them Survive

In talking about sparing efforts towards charity, most of us find it tough to make a choice between all the needy causes that need our help in this world.

But Rwanda citizen Eugene Rutagarama isn’t so confused. He has one goal in mind: getting out of his house everyday and offering help wherever needed – and in his case, he chose to help the fast dwindling members of the Mountain Gorilla tribe.

Eugene Rutagarama
Eugene is Director, International Gorilla Conservation Program

Exiled at the height of the 1994 genocide conflict in Rwanda, he returned home to rebuild the national park system and protect crucial mountain gorilla habitat, resulting in the Volcano National Park.

A biologist with an MSc in Applied Ecology and Conservation, it isn’t tough to understand why he chose Mountain Gorillas over a hungry, malnourished child in his native town – simple, it wasn’t a choice. Rutagarama says that Mountain Gorillas are an intrinsic part of the habitat, much needed to maintain the balance of the Earth’s ecosystem. It’s critical that we spare all efforts in conserving not just the wildlife, but the flora and fauna as well.

In effect, by saving one part of the ecology, we save ourselves as well.

Eugène’s invaluable contribution to grass-roots conservation earned him two prestigious prizes, the Jean Paul Getty Prize and the 2001 Goldman Environmental Prize, conservation’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. In June 2007, he was featured as a CNN hero “Defending the Planet”.

Eugene Rutagarama is my Hero of the Day, not because he has, with great risk to his life, fostered a program of conservation for the Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda, but also promoted a theme of inclusive charity – by helping save one species on Earth, he gives another species a second chance at survival – Humans.

He also didn’t break his head over the insurmountable problems staring at him – war, civil unrest, poverty, famine, militia, government bureaucracy, lack of any focused effort or aids in this direction, and worse, local and regional apathy and illiteracy toward wildlife conservation. What matters to him is taking that first, small step in the right direction. I salute him!

By Nilofar Ansher

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