Gorilla Trekking and Conservation
Historically, gorilla tourism has helped support conservation ventures and has helped raise awareness for the critically endangered mountain gorillas.
Currently, some of the main threats facing the mountain gorillas are habitat loss, poaching and disease. This makes conservation integral to their survival.
The work of individuals such as Dian Fossey highlighted the plight of the mountain gorilla and conservation efforts have been underway since the late 1960s to help rehabilitate the species. Today, mountain gorilla numbers sit at around 880 and groups such as the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and the International Gorilla Conservation Project work tirelessly to protect and ensure the survival of these gentle giants.
One of the largest contributors to conservation efforts is gorilla tourism and gorilla trekking permit fees.
There is a relatively high cost involved when embarking on a gorilla trek, with fees for Uganda currently sitting at $600 and fees for Rwanda costing $1500.
The permits are a way to carefully control gorilla tourism. A limited number of permits are issued per day and national park officials accompany each trekking group. This ensures that gorilla trekking etiquette is maintained and that all encounters follow the carefully drawn up set of rules.
Permit fees contribute to funding management of the reserves, gorilla monitoring and research as well as to the salaries of the rangers who protect the gorillas.
Permits are also fed back into the local communities with part of the profits being used for community betterment and infrastructure projects.
Gorilla tourism helps even more when visitors make use of local tour operators and lodges. This economic incentive allows the community to become more involved in gorilla ecotourism and conservation.
Overall, a gorilla trek is not only an incredibly unique African wildlife experience but also an activity which aids in important conservation efforts along with benefitting local communities.