Its very necessary to be aware of the gorilla trekking regulations and guidelines in you are planning to go gorilla watching in Africa. Visiting mountain gorillas in Africa takes place in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic republic of Congo.
How gorilla trekking contributes to conservation of mountain Gorillas in Africa
Mountain gorillas are quite endangered primates species, which in the early 90’s were facing a danger of extinction due to uncontrolled gorilla poaching, civil wars, encroachment on gorilla forests, uncontrolled diseases which were greatly affecting the gorillas numbers, and if not for Dain Fossey the American primatologist who started the gorilla conservation project in the Virunga so as to save and protect the lives of mountain gorillas in the Virunga massif region which covers a total area of 3a of 300 km covering national parks on Volcanoes NP, Virunga NP and Mgahinga NP. Dian fossey set up at Karisoke research base so she could protect the gorillas. Gorilla tourism was introduced by Dian fossey as a means of foreign income earner which will ensure mountain gorilla protection and conservation.
In recent years, gorilla tourism returns have successfully ensured protection and conservation of mountain gorillas as the gorillas numbers are increasing steadily with every census reporting an increase in gorilla numbers. Also as witness at the Rwanda gorilla naming ceremony, each year new born gorillas are named, this shows that each year, there are over 20 new born gorillas.
Threats affecting gorillas still exists, which include diseases which can be spread from human being yet gorillas are very vulnerable to human diseases. In order to protect the gorillas a set of rules and precaution means have been set up so as to protect the endangered gorillas and human being to as to harmonious gorilla tourism vs gorilla protection.
By following these gorilla trekking rules and through the purchase of the permit, you generously contribute to the conservation of the mountain gorilla. Uganda Wildlife Authority uses the funds generated from the sale of this permit for the management of the National Parks. A percentage of the funds raised from Park entrance fees are also donated to local communities living adjacent to the parks to contribute to their development and improve natural resource management in the region.
Guideline for Visitors to follow when going gorilla trekking
- Only a maximum of 8 people on a single day visit a single gorillas group; This was mitigated as a way minimizing the spread of diseases from humans to the animals and also to lessen the behavioral disturbance and exhausting the gorillas.
- Keep very low voices when in presence of gorillas so as to maintain, a calm jungle environment for not only the mountain gorillas but all for the other existing wildlife species in the forested mountains.
- Tourists are strictly not allowed to carry or even dispose off rubbish in the mountain gorilla habitats. Also this contributes to the conservation of the mountain gorillas and their habitats.
- When trekking mountain gorillas, tourists are usually guided by tour guides and game rangers who tend to have an idea of the possible locations of the family groups; and it’s always very important to follow the directions and orders that may be given to you by your tour guides to avoid and problems or even attacks from the wild animals within these habitats.
- Whenever, the family group is being approached, the tour guide and ranger always give the tourists a signal; to get ready.
- Once in the exact location of the mountain gorillas, tourists are allowed to stay at a reasonable distance of 7 meters away from the animals. It helps limit the spread of diseases like colds, flu etc. to the animals and also helps in keeping them calm within their presence.
- Trekkers, when with the gorillas are expected to avoid unnecessary movements and noise so as not to scare the animals but are free to ask the guides nay questions when visiting the creatures.
- Visitors are not allowed to eat or drink when visiting the creatures in their natural vicinity as this may increase the risk of disease transmission to the animals which are yet very vulnerable creatures.
- When visiting the gorillas, at times they may charge; Here it’s important to follow the guides example (crouch down slowly, do not look the gorillas directly in the eyes and wait for the animals to pass). Do not try and take pictures and do not attempt to run away. Running away will increase the risk.
- Visitors are allowed to take pictures and even make videos of their visit, however, cameras with flash lights are not allowed as they scare off the animals and also for clear coverage, those with less/ or no flash lights are best recommended.
- Visitors are always reminded that these are wild animals much as they are habituated they remain dangerous; as a precaution, visitors are not allowed to touch the creatures even when they move closer towards them, tourists are advised to always take small steps backwards.
- Tourists are strictly permitted to an hour stay with the mountain gorillas to avoid disturbing them and getting them tired though there are cases when the tour guide may forcefully bring your encounter to an end when the animals show signs of agitation before the end of this one hour.
- At the end of an encounter with the mountain gorillas, tourists are advised to always keep their voices low until they are about 200 meters away from the animals.
GENERAL HEALTH RULES:
- Since mountain gorillas share a 98 % DNA with human beings, they are very fragile/ vulnerable creatures and therefore prone to catching human diseases. As ay of conserving the mountain gorillas, tourism board/ governments in the three countries have established certain rules basically for promoting good health of the mountain gorillas.
- As a reminder, it’s very important for tourists and tour operators to stick to the restricted number of 8 visitors to a specific family group in a day to lessen the risk of exposing mountain gorillas to disease contamination.
- In case one feels sick on the actual tracking day, especially with the contagious diseases of flu, cold, diarrhea, he/she should stay away from the trekking adventure to avoid passing it on to the animals. And there is always a compensation provided to sick visitors like refund or special trip arrangements when recovered.
- In case there’s the urge to cough or sneeze when you are near the gorillas, please turn your head away and cover your nose and mouth in order to minimize the spread of bacteria or viruses.
- Visitors should always maintain the reasonable distance of 7 meters away from the mountain gorillas.
- Tourists are not allowed to touch mountain gorillas at any one point when in their proximity.
- Eating, drinking and smoking are not allowed in the national parks and it should therefore be strictly observed.
- Do not leave any rubbish (e g. food wrappers) in the Park; foreign items can harbor diseases or other contaminants.
- Incase nature calls when in the forest, please inform your tour guide who may dig you a hole with the help of a panga but it should be at least 30 cm deep and covered / refilled with soil once done.