Mountain gorillas are quite intriguing wild species and one of most threatened species on planet earth. They are highly an endangered species due to the increasing levels of deforestation and global warming, human encroachment on their habitat, diseases, poaching and civil wars among others.
Belonging to the Eastern gorilla, the mountain gorillas can be seen around the forested mountains of the Virunga region that stretches from Northwestern Rwanda, Southwestern Uganda to the Eastern of The Democratic Republic of Congo. It is only in these regions that we find the surviving numbers of mountains gorillas in the whole world, which explains why so many tourists flock the countries of Uganda, Rwanda and DRC basically for this one life time encounter / experience with the marvelous Apes.
In the early 1990’s, the survival of these creatures was at a stake due to the existence of civil wars especially in the countries of Rwanda and The Democratic Republic of Congo where their habitats were at times used as fighting grounds. This led to a drastic decrease in their population numbers. And later on prompted the Uganda and Rwandan governments together with their wildlife organizations to introduce the mountain gorilla conservation and protection programs which have greatly contributed to the survival of these apes in the world today.
Several mountain gorilla conservation and protection programs have been established for the protection of these wildlife species such as; resettlement of the Batwa Pygmies of Uganda outside Bwindi Impenetrable natural forest thus reducing on habitat encroachment and hunting, The Mountain gorilla naming Ceremony of Rwanda in which Baby gorillas are named every year, the establishment of gorilla tracking rules like ( limiting the number of tourists visiting the gorillas, restricting human contact with the animals to reduce on the spread of diseases, forbidding sick visitors from visiting the gorillas, promotion of good sanitation in the vicinity of mountain gorillas etc.) these and many other measures have greatly contributed to the survival of mountain gorillas in the world today. This therefore explains the gradual increase in the mountain gorilla population to about 1000 surviving mountain gorillas.
It should be noted that half of this population is currently settled in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the remaining half distributed to Rwanda’s Volcanoes Park, Mgahinga national park of Uganda and the Virunga national park of Congo.
In these national parks, you find the habituated mountain gorilla families, which are available for tourists. To be a part of a gorilla tour in Africa, visitors must acquire the gorilla permits from the wildlife organizations in each country. Each singe day, 8 visitors are allowed to a single gorilla family in a day, staying only an hour with the creatures; watching them play, eat, tease each other in their locality while taking photographs and videos.
Recently, a new mountain gorilla hiking activity has been introduced; The mountain gorilla habituation experience, a process that involves taming and training the apes on how to coexist with human beings in their vicinity without any harm. This great mountain gorilla encounter is found in the Rushaga sector of Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park of Uganda. There are basically two gorilla families that is; the Bushaho Gorilla family group and Bikingi Gorilla family group. This experience, offers tourists a chance of spending four (4) long hours interacting with the gorillas as compared to the mountain gorilla trekking activity where only an hour is allowed with the animals. Here, tourists are a part of the training team-teaching the gorillas how to behave when in the presence of visitors. Like all mountain gorilla activities, this too starts off early in the morning after early morning briefing rom the guides and forest rangers, and followed by the hike into the forest in search for these creatures. However, this can be enjoyed at a higher price as compared to mountain gorilla trekking, mountain gorilla habituation experience can be enjoyed at a cost of $1500 for the tickets which are available at the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices or through a trusted tour operator.
It should be noted that despite the risk at which mountain gorillas live (being the most endangered species of wildlife), their survival in the future is very rampant due to the awakened growth and development of the tourism industry in the African countries of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. As visitors buy permits, they directly participate in the spread of the conservation and protection programs worldwide back in their home countries thus contributing to the survival of these creatures. In addition to this, the money paid for the gorilla trekking permits and habituation tickets is further used in the conservation programs – funding the projects, paying off rangers and guides hence providing them with income thus limiting the poaching rates among others. As a matter of fact, the survival of mountain gorillas is greatly linked to the existence of the tourism industry that people get to learn the importance and value of wildlife in the world.