Gorilla Tourism: How Local Communities Are Conserving Mountain Gorillas

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The protected areas that are the core natural habitats for the critically endangered mountain gorillas include Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park Uganda, volcanoes national park Rwanda and virunga national park in Eastern DR Congo.

Conservationists have a sensitive task; these protected areas are surrounded by high human population and its pressure on wildlife conservation. There’s much need, within the local communities around gorilla parks, that conservationists must strike the balance between promoting tourism and conservation of gorillas as well as their natural habitats but most important to develop livelihood strategies for local people in any way possible who’ve inhabited the gorilla habitats for life and co-existed with wildlife for centuries.

Today, the gorilla national parks in Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo still provide for the millions of people, food, water, land for agriculture, clean air, medicinal herbs as well as timber and shelter for the minority groups of people often referred to as the BaTwa pygmies, who’re still earth’s oldest people and represent an authentic traditional hunter-gathers lifestyles, despite decades of marginalization in the guise of tourism and conservation of mountain gorillas.

As human population continues to increase, pressure on gorilla habitats also increases, despite the current population increase of mountain gorillas. Today, 880 gorillas thrive in the wild. As a result gorilla tourism has attracted millions of travelers, who undertake gorilla safaris in Uganda, Rwanda & DR Congo.

Gorilla tourism has been generating huge revenues to fund conservation and empower locals who bear much of the costs of conservation through community based tourism enterprise development. Large percentage of the gorilla revenues generated are put into sustainable agriculture, clean water, healthy life, creating employment for park staff, education and infrastructure such as roads and other tourism faculties that support visitors stay.

In Uganda, there’s increased ownership of community based tourism services and products,

Locals having been employed as rangers, trackers, gorilla doctors, guides, it has discouraged illegal encroachment and encouraged protection of gorillas through ranger monitoring system and anti-poaching patrols among other purposes like habituation, trekking and intervention to treat diseases. Gorillas today are less targeted by poachers except for encroachment due to extension of agriculture and threat of human diseases as well as climate change.

On the other hand, the governments of Rwanda, Uganda and DRC collaboratively maintain cross-border security.

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