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Visit Rwanda launches Instagram Citizen Science Program for gorilla conservation

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In a world's first, visitors to Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park can contribute to conservation efforts.

LOS ANGELES - Visit Rwanda and the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) is launching a new innovative use of technology to protect and conserve gorillas and promote sustainable and responsible wildlife tourism in the country. With GorillaGram, visitors to Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park will not just get to spend time with the country's famed mountain gorillas, but they can also utilize Instagram to help play an active role in gorilla conservation by sharing their own experiences and photos through the platform.

Rwanda is home to some of the only populations of mountain gorillas, and their protection has been a conservation success story in Rwanda. Over recent decades, the population has grown to over 1,000 individuals, up from just 480 in 2010. With the intentions of continuing conservation efforts and further growing the population of wild gorillas, the Rwandan gorilla families will now have a presence on Instagram through this project. GorillaGram will make them the first population of wild animals in the world to have an active social media presence that helps with vital research, management and protection.

Using Instagram photos, visitors to Volcanoes National Park can now become citizen scientists during their visits by adding optional provided tags that help rangers, researchers and monitoring teams keep track of the groups and individuals via aggregation systems that store the photos in smart galleries. As Michaella Rugwizangoga, Chief Tourism Officer of the Rwanda Development Board says, "This simple approach gives park rangers, veterinarians and conservationists access to a wealth of verified media content from our gorilla families every single day, including recorded behavior, changes to the group, interactions of interest and even alerts our rangers to any injuries or concerns."

Partnerships with researchers, conservationists and the local tourism sector will ensure that visiting the park produces tangible benefits and serves as an example of responsible tourism at its best. The smart galleries of tourist photos will vastly expand the knowledge base and monitoring abilities of the park rangers and scientists, making these more than just treasured memories. Each visitor has the opportunity to play an important role in ensuring that the species continue to be protected and will prosper and thrive in Volcanoes National Park. The daily content from park visitors will also be available to the public alongside links to support gorilla populations and habitat conservation, or to plan a trip to visit Rwanda and make more contributions to GorillaGram.

The announcement of GorillaGram comes only days after World Gorilla Day, a celebration of the majesty of gorillas, with whom we share more than 98% of our DNA. With the intention of raising questions and vital awareness about the many threats they face; the holiday also marks the day that renowned conservationist Dian Fossey established the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda in 1967.

Now, Visit Rwanda celebrates the holiday with an annual baby gorilla naming ceremony, Kwita Izina. This year's ceremony took place on September 2, and the baby gorillas were granted names by celebrities and dignitaries including His Royal Highness Prince Charles, actress Uzo Aduba, Chairman of the Rwanda Development Board Itzhak Fisher, soccer stars Didier Drogba and Gilberto Silva, and celebrity veterinarian Dr. Evan Antin.

Ms. Rugwizangoga adds, "Those looking to make positive change and environmental impacts through travel need look no further than gorilla tracking in Rwanda. GorillaGram allows guests to have an unparalleled opportunity to make an unforgettable wildlife encounter and be an active part of conservation work that can be shared with family and friends. We look forward to welcoming guests to Rwanda and inviting them to work with us and add their own experiences to GorillaGram."

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