“Bird watching in Rwanda can reach similar economic potential as the gorillas already have today.”

So said Ellen Kallinowsky, Principal Technical Adviser of the Promotion of Economy and Employment programme of the German Development Corporation, which has partnered with the Rwanda Development Board, Rwanda Chamber of Tourism, and the Rwanda Safari Guide Association, to train 35 local birding guides on bird-watching techniques, photography, ringing, breeding biology, tourism and presentation.

The 19-day training exercise was led by British expert birder, Malcolm Wilson, in the country’s prime bird-watching destinations in Bugesera District, Akagera National Park and Nyungwe National Park.

Rwanda's Head of Tourism and Conservation Department, Ariella Kageruka, said: “Rwanda aims to increase its tourism revenues to over US$800m by 2024, and to attain this we need to have skilled professionals giving tourists the best experiences. Rwanda is a hot spot for over 700 bird species and their habitats. Tourists who come for avitourism in Rwanda usually spend more days and money. With this training, we want to improve the quality of bird watching experiences in Rwanda and earn more from avitourism.”

Birding was not restricted to a specific number of visitors or to one area in the country, said Kallinowsky. “On the contrary, the wide range of birding habitats, varying from grass- and wetlands to forests and savannas allows for a spectacular diversity of species, making the country an Eldorado for birders. Tour operators and the hospitality sector as well as communities all over Rwanda can benefit from that.”