Africa’s Success in Saving Mountain Gorillas
Despite the struggles and threats, Africa has thrived to save the critically endangered mountain gorillas, which were once at the verge of extinction. Its evident that since the time of Dian Fossey, gorilla tourism has undeniable been a success in East and central Africa proved by a steady increase gorilla safari packages confirmed everyday. Gorilla conservation success was confirmed in the recent census in the Virunga conservation area where mountain gorilla population was found to have increased from 880 gorillas in 2010 to 1004 in 2018. This is a great achievement, which give hope for sustainable gorilla trekking experience in Africa. Of all apes in the wild, its only the mountain gorillas whose population has steadily increased over time. Gorilla trekking is the most done activity in East and Central Africa attracting the highest number of travelers from all over the world. To see gorillas, one must travel deep into the jungles of Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and the Virunga conservation area, which comprise of four national parks, which are Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda, Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo.
We recognize the resolute conservation efforts of responsible government bodies in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo, non governmental organization, respective governments and local communities who have worked hand in hand to conserve mountain gorillas and ensure sustainable gorilla tourism in Africa rewarding travelers with this once in a lifetime experience.
Those who visited mountain gorillas in the 1970’s testify how the population of mountain gorillas was terribly small hence appreciate the great conservation efforts, which have encouraged an increase in mountain gorilla population. An example of these travelers is Sir David Attenborough who famously trekked mountain gorillas in 1970 and took captured a gorilla film. However, all stakeholders are called upon to add extra effort and lay other strategies to ensure sustainable gorilla tourism.
Threats to gorilla tourism
There are several threats that must be addressed if gorilla tourism is to be sustainable. The popular threat is poaching especially in Virunga national park. More than 380 snares that were found in the recent gorilla survey is an indication of continuous poaching in gorilla national parks. Much as traps are intended to capture antelopes, mountain gorillas especially the young ones have on several occasions fallen victims. One animal was found dead in the traps, which is bad news for conservation and tourism.
More still, oil exploration in gorilla habitats especially Virunga national park is a great threat. Presently, there are plans of degarzeting some portion of Virunga national park and Salongo national park for oil exploration. This will with doubt hinder gorilla tour activities in the park and likely lead to the death and relocation of some mountain gorillas. The development of infrastructures especially roads cutting through gorilla national parks and lodges cause discomfort to the endangered mountain gorillas in heir natural habitats.
Loss of habitat cannot be ruled out when talking about threats to the increase of mountain gorillas. Gorilla parks have continually been encroached by local people who intend to expand their land for settlement and farming. The recent surveys indicate that local communities adjacent to gorilla parks are highly populated which force people to tamper with parkland for expanded land.
Human-borne disease especially flu and cold affect the immunity of mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas rare close relatives to human beings, which share over 98% of human genes, which make them susceptible to human diseases. During gorilla treks, mountain gorillas sometimes come so close to people since they have no knowledge of the seven-meter distance, which put at a risk of contracting human-borne diseases some of which lose their lives.
In general, we appreciate the tireless efforts that have led to an increase in mountain gorilla numbers. However, there is time for complacency but rather increased efforts. Stake holders are called upon to remain extremely vigilant to address and deal with the growing threats of poaching, human borne disease, and loss of gorilla habits which continue to put the lives of these critically endangered species at risk.