The mountain gorilla is one of the most Endangered animals in all of Africa. There are only two regions where mountain gorillas are found in Central Africa; the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the Virunga Massif forests that span the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Within these countries, gorilla trekking is the major highlight of most safaris. Year-round tourists take gorilla tours to the different national parks to see the gorillas in their natural habitat including Virunga National Park in the DRC, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda.
By visiting the mountain gorillas in the wild through organised gorilla treks, tourists contribute to their continued survival within the forests. Though the governments of the host countries and conservation organisations have tried to protect the mountain gorillas, a lot is still needed to ensure sustainability and the full protection of these great apes. After your trek, there are a lot of things that you can do to help promote gorilla conservation.
Here are five ways to help gorillas after your trip:
1. Spread the word
After your visit, you can help to spread the word about gorilla tourism. Primate-based ecotourism has played an important role in creating awareness and generating funds for conservation and development within Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Over the past 20 years, tourism has been the most successful tool for protecting gorillas in these countries. Local people have now widely embraced gorilla tourism as a form of additional income. Tourism has also created jobs for the locals as well as generating direct revenue from the sale of goods or provision of services such as guiding, transportation, and more. Spreading the word about gorilla tourism will help to attract tourists to the parks and therefore more benefits can be realised in terms of generating funds for conservation and development.
2. Friend a gorilla
Visitors are also encouraged to participate in the ‘Friend a Gorilla’ campaign aimed at protecting the mountain gorillas. This Uganda Wildlife Authority initiative was started to promote and educate the world about Uganda’s mountain gorillas. With as low as USD$1 you can befriend a gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Once you become friends with a gorilla you will receive regular updates on their activities within the forest through Facebook and Twitter.
3. Take a pledge
In June 2014, The International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) and Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN) announced the launch of the Gorilla Friendly™ Pledge, an awareness raising campaign developed to minimise the risk of disease transmission from humans to gorilla. It is encouraged that visitors should take the pledge before their visit, but even after your trek you can create awareness about gorilla-human interaction and help educate future trackers to promote sustainable gorilla watching in Africa.
4. Share feedback
Giving feedback after your trip is very important. You can share your gorilla safari experience with fellow travellers on review websites like TripAdvisor. Your response will help future visitors, and the information you provide will be analysed on a regular basis by conservationists and tourism managers as a means to monitor and improve on the practice of gorilla tourism over time.
5. Donate to a gorilla conservation organisation
There are a large number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), inter-governmental organisations (IGOs) as well as national authorities that work in protecting the Endangered mountain gorillas. Some of these organisations have been involved in various gorilla and primate action plans, conservation initiatives and programmes, which deal with a range of issues. Your contribution will help to promote the conservation work done by these people. Some of the notable conservation organisations are:
The International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP): An organisation with the goal to promote the sustainable conservation of mountain gorillas and their habitats. It aims to strengthen conservation of mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda, to develop a regional approach to mountain gorilla conservation, and to increase cooperation between the protected area authorities of the three mountain gorilla range states.
The Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP): An ambitious project of UNEP and UNESCO in collaboration with a whole range of partners which aims to lift the threat of imminent extinction faced by gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans.
The Gorilla Organisation: Works to alleviate the pressure on the Virunga National Park by supporting the local communities and providing alternative resources.
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