Many Species. One Planet. One Future.

The theme of WED 2010 was “Many Species. One Planet. One Future.” It echoed the urgent call to conserve the diversity of life on our planet.  A world without biodiversity is a very bleak prospect. Millions of people and millions of species all share the same planet, and only together can we enjoy a safer and more prosperous future. WED 2010 took place in Kigali, Rwanda.

A total of 17,291 species are known to be threatened with extinction – from little-known plants and insects to charismatic birds and mammals. This is just the tip of the iceberg; many species disappear before they are even discovered.

The reason? Human activities. With our present approach to development, we have caused the clearing of much of the original forest, drained half of the world’s wetlands, depleted three quarters of all fish stocks, and emitted enough heat-trapping gases to keep our planet warming for centuries to come. We have put our foot on the accelerator, making species extinctions occur at up to 1000 times the natural rate.

As a result, we are increasingly risking the loss of the very foundation of our own survival. The variety of life on our planet – known as ‘biodiversity’ – gives us our food, clothes, fuel, medicine and much, much more. You may not think that a beetle in your backyard or grass growing by the roadside has a fundamental connection to you - but it does. When even one species is taken out of the intricate web of life, the results can be catastrophic.

For this reason, the United Nations declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity. It was an opportunity to stress the importance of biodiversity for human well-being, reflect on our achievements to safeguard it and encourage a redoubling of our efforts to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss.

Rwandan biodiversity
Rwanda has a remarkable variety of ecosystems and of flora and fauna. Its location at the heart of the Albertine Rift eco-region in the western arm of the Africa’s Rift Valley is a contributory factor. This region is one of Africa’s most biologically diverse regions. It is home to some 40 per cent of the continent’s mammal species (402 species), a huge diversity of birds (1,061 species), reptiles and amphibians (293 species), and higher plants (5,793 species).

The most biologically diverse habitats in Rwanda lie within three protected areas including Volcanoes National Park, Akagera National Park, and Nyungwe National Park. The last is known to be the largest mountain rainforest in Africa and covers around 1013 square kilometres of rugged terrain, ranging in elevation from 1,585–2,951 metres, including tall, closed-canopy forests, bamboo thickets, and open, flower-filled marshes. This ecosystem maintains the hydrological system of not only the country but also the region.

The rich biodiversity of Rwanda, provide an opportunity for the development of the tourism sector in Rwanda. Rwandan tourism is mainly based on visits in national parks, with the Volcanoes National Park, the most visited.