Visiting Gorillas deep in Africa’s rain forests is one of the most enjoyed African safari adventure, which caught the attention of most of the world from the popular movie “Gorillas in the mist” which features the gorilla conservation efforts of Dian Fossey, an American primatologist who dedicated her life to protect the lives of mountain gorillas within the Virunga mountainous region which stretches to cover Virunga national park in Congo, Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Mgahinga in southern Uganda.
Tracking gorillas means you have to hike into their natural habitat to observe these intriguing creatures. This means we are actually stepping into the gorillas home space as they carrying on with their daily activities which morally feels like intruding into someone’s personal space and privacy, which is actually bringing ma back to the question in subject.
Does trekking the critically endangered mountain gorillas in Africa’s forested jungles actually protect the interest of gorillas and promote their sustainability ?
To answer this important question, we need to look back at how far mountain gorilla safaris in Africa has come,why mountain gorillas were listed among the critically endangered species which if not protected were going to go extinct.
Gorilla Threats which could lead to extinction
Poaching – Even though wildlife hunting with in the Virunga region was illegal, neighboring communities still killed gorillas because the law was not strictly enforced, and the authorities in charge were easily bribed off, gorillas remained threatened.
Encroachment on Habitat Land – This is mainly from human encroachment turning park land into cultivation land. Dian Fossey was very helpful with the revision of the European Union project of planting pyre thrum farms on park land which resulted into lowering park land from 3,000 meters to 2,500 meters.
Tourism – Gorilla tourism comes with diseases, mountain gorillas are very much susceptible to human diseases like influenza, tuberculosis, diarrhea which they have no immunity and can easily spread from one to another. Mountain gorillas don’t have the same strong immunity like in human being.
Political insecurities – This causes a lot of harm to gorillas as they get killed in large numbers, forced to flee to neighboring forests abandoning their home.
Today its very evident that gorilla tourism is the one important element that has let to the high improvement of gorillas numbers and had built awareness and importance of the lives of mountain gorillas to the whole world.
Since gorilla tourism has a positive impact on the lives of mountain gorillas, yet its by its self very dangerous to the livelihood of mountain gorillas, its very necessary to put into place strict measures and rules which can curb the risk associated to human diseases contraction.
Preventative Measures to curb the risk of human disease spreading to gorillas
Limiting the number of human being by making a gorilla trekking permit expensive. This means those who cannot afford it will not go, also those who can afford it cannot go many times because because they can afford to throw away money so many times which definitely cuts on numbers.
Secondly only a group of 8 people not more, can go visit a single gorilla group to avoid exhausting the endangered creatures. This means, each day has a limit of gorilla permits issues strictly but the respective country tourism authorities.
Thirdly, visitors can only spend one hour when they meet the gorillas. This is a preventative measure to protect them from long hours of human encounter.
Also, When you have a contagious disease, your not allowed to go trekking with gorillas and your gorilla permit money is fully refunded when you report at the different park headquarters.
Another important measure of protects the gorillas is keeping a distance of 5 to 7 meters away from the gorillas, if a gorilla approaches near, you are advised to step back slowly. Visitors are not allowed to touch the gorillas
More Preventative Options
Deployment of veterinary doctors in the mountain gorilla forests, by the respective governments, in addition to larger non government organizations like Gorilla Doctors who treat the endangered species in case of sickness, wounds
How other threats are being minimized
Encroachment on Gorilla habitant – this has been addressed mainly by the profit sharing scheme. In Rwanda and Uganda, the governments have pt in place a community beneficially scheme where a portion of the revenue generated from gorilla tourism is given back to the communities neighboring the gorilla forest. This intern has created a sense of ownership of the preservation and protection of mountain gorillas because their good living depends on gorilla tourism.
Insecurities and Conflicts – In Rwanda and Uganda Peace and security is the major focus and try to maintain security throughout the country. Around gorilla habitants are deployed tourism police which protects all park boundaries.
In conclusion, gorilla tours in Africa benefits conservation and protection of the critically endangered gorilla species. This is where revenue that runs the gorilla protection activities like buying medicine and medical equipment , paying gorillas doctors, security police the neighboring communities which in the long run help in the survival and increase in numbers of the gorillas.
Therefore, when you buy a gorilla permit or gorilla pass, you are directly aiding the preservation efforts for the survival of mountain gorillas. Therefore when you are doing your gorilla trek, take the responsibility and keep all the Don’t of gorilla tracking. Do not gorilla trekking with gorilla when you are sick.