Mountain gorillas are among the the most endangered primate species that are only found in three countries in the world. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one of the four national parks that inhabit the forested mountains in southwestern Uganda. Together with the Bwindi impenetrable National Park, these are the only two Ugandan parks that were gazetted by the Uganda government to protect the endangered mountain gorillas.
Many tourists visit the Mgahinga National Park for gorilla trekking, though there are many other wild animals that inhabit the forest. Currently there is only one habituated gorilla group that can be visited by the tourists – Nyakagezi Gorilla Group.
The mountain gorillas in Mgahinga National Park live in families that comprise of several individuals. Each family is led by the strongest male mountain gorillas called a silverback. This silverback is always in charge of protecting its family against any intrusion and usually determines the daily routine. The silverback usually leads its subordinates to different parts of the jungle searching for fresh plant leaves and new places for building new nests for the night.
Mountain gorillas’ being mobile animals makes tracking them a little prolonged to take about 1 to 8 hours of hiking the forest depending on their movement and following their trails as directed by the rangers. Some mountain gorillas can be got to after short hours of hike (like 2 hours) while others are stubborn and tend to go far away to the higher slopes of the mountains and these are the ones that can be got after longer hours of hike.
The mountain gorilla families that are tracked are habituated and can therefore withstand tourist’s presence in their environments. Tourists are therefore allowed to be in the presence of the mountain gorillas for strictly one hour. The one hours is just enough for fascinating one on one with the gorillas as well as taking photographs. After it elapses, tourists are again guided back to the national park headquarters where they are given certificates of participation. Tourists are restricted to be with the mountain gorillas for only one hour because they have about 98%DNA similar to humans and being near human beings for long exposes them to easily contracting human diseases. Tourists’ being in the presence of the gorillas for one hour also reduces the chances of behavioral change among the mountain gorillas.