Eco Tourism saving Mountain Gorillas in Africa
Efforts to save mountain gorillas in Africa have been through challenging series looking back at the past forty years since gorilla conservation efforts started. With the introduction of gorilla tours in Africa, Mountain gorillas in Africa can be traced in the Virunga volcano region of Eastern side of Africa, which is historically a region known for its series of incursions by rebel militias creating a very insecure atmosphere for the local people as well park rangers, who at least knew safe places to walk without fear of falling into traps and avoid land mine. The gorillas of course are wild animals that freely move around the jungle in search for foliage and bamboo for eating and end up falling into traps set my rebels.
The population of mountain gorillas was being threatened to extinction by the 1970’s with a number of factors hindering the live hood of these great apes. Apart from insecurities, there are a number of factors, had to be addressed in order to save the gorilla population.
- Encroachment of forest lands forcing gorillas to constantly migrate
- Illegal Gorilla Trade
Dian Fossey an American primatologist established a research center with great need to find ways to save and protect gorillas from abuse and extinction pioneered saving mountain gorillas in Africa. She setup a gorilla study site at Karisoke, located in Rwanda, between Karisoke and Visoke mountains.
In order to save gorillas, Dian Fossey first fought against poachers who were at a high rise. It was poachers who later murdered Dian Fossey who was buried at her Karisoke center but her massage on saving endangered mountain gorillas caught the world attention and the concerned governments on the great need to practice proper eco tourism to save the mountain gorillas of Africa.
Today, a lot of effort has been invested into mountain gorilla conservation with all problems, which were affecting gorillas addressed. Gorillas numbers have gone up from less that 250 gorillas to over 1000 gorillas surviving in central and east Africa.
How eco tourism is saving gorillas?
Dain Fossey envisioned that introduction of gorilla tourism as the only way to help save gorillas. With the foreign exchange earned from gorilla safaris, funding conservation projects would be easy to manage. It should be noted that, gorilla tours are a major income earner for the countries where gorillas are located. For example in 2006 – 2013, mountain gorillas found in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo hosted more than a million tourists generating $75m (£44m) and about 90% of the countries’ annual foreign income earning.
In 2005, the Rwanda government introduced an annual profit sharing scheme, where 5% of income earning from gorilla tourism is ploughed back into the disadvantaged local communities surrounding the national parks to help in local project development programs so as to improve their living standards like construction of roads, water and sanitation, health unites and low treatment costs. It should be noted that communities living around national parks are densely populated with high poverty levels and poor sanitation.
With such profit sharing schemes, the community develops 100% interest in gorilla conservation, as it’s a benefit to everyone.
Introduction of strict rules which must be observed by all tourists going to visit gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda and Congo. These rules were set to protect the endangered mountain gorilla species form threats like diseases from human beings like tuberculosis, diarrhea and influenza which a very deadly if they catch gorillas as gorillas have low immunity to human diseases.
Gorilla Trekking Rules
Don’t trek gorillas when sick. If a tourist feels sick, report to the park offices and will receive refund for your gorilla permit or reschedule. While with the gorillas and you need to sneeze, blow your nose or cough; do it away from the gorillas. They are very susceptible to human diseases
A distance of 5-7 meters is strictly maintained between visitors and the gorillas. This is to protect the gorillas and visitors
Only a group of 8 people are allowed to visit a single gorilla family for just one hour so as not to exhaust the gorillas
No eating, drinking in the presence of gorillas and importantly no littering in the gorilla habitat
- All national park land has been demarcated and protected from encroachment by locals. With the introduction of profit sharing from mountain gorilla tourism, protecting gorillas is a communal responsibility where locales don’t violate gorilla habitat.
In conclusion, with current the progressive increase in gorilla population numbers with reference to the most recent ongoing gorilla census in the Virunga region and Bwindi forest national park, one would agree that, the history of gorilla tourism as learnt something and forgot nothing from the time of Dian Fossey.