The fact mountain gorilla protection and conservation still features as the greatest challenge, there is need to derive effective measures to ensure these rare apes, plus other wildlife species and their habitats are well kept to offer that authentic African experiences. Mountain gorillas are among a few most critically endangered primate species whose status still feature in the IUCN Redbook despite their current numbers and other potential risks. These rare apes can only be tracked in the jungles of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park, southwestern Uganda; Volcanoes National Park in northwestern Rwanda and the Virunga National Park in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). About 900 individuals of these rare apes are left on earth today and poaching, human encroachment and illegal trade, human infectious diseases and others still threaten the lives of these unique species in the wild.
The efforts to save the lives of the rare mountain gorillas in the wilderness began way back at the time when Dian Fossey visited Africa to conduct her research in the jungles of Virunga Volcanoes. Dian Fossey is a popular American primatologist, she is remembered for her research work and for creating awareness about these critically endangered apes that the world boasts today. She also established Karisoke research center that is found between Mount Karisoke and Bisoke to help her in research. It is from her efforts to protect and conserve the mountain gorillas from extinction.
Dian Fossey considered gorilla tourism as the only criteria for these endangered apes to be protected and the foreign exchange from mountain gorilla adventures could fund most of the conservation programs in most of the protected areas where they live. Today, mountains gorilla tours in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo have become the most sought after experiences and one of the leading activities that generate foreign exchange.
Respective park authorities where these unique apes are conserved also initiated an annual profit sharing scheme where a given percentage of gorilla tourism income is given back to the local communities in and around the parks mainly to support their local projects which in turn will help in boosting their livelihoods. And in the long run, they will support gorilla protection, conservation and tourism in their communities. Such local projects include construction of health centers, provision or clean / piped water, rural electrification, schools and scholastic materials among others.
Gorilla trekking permits are also a must to have for any visitors interested in undertaking this lifetime adventures and they come in different amounts depending on the destination. In Uganda, they are obtainable at US$600 per person, Rwanda permits are sold at US$1500 per tourist and US$400 per trekker in the DR Congo. One permit equals to one gorilla family for visitors to track each day and the money which is got from this adventure is utilized in ensuring that the environment where there critically endangered species live are conserved and they are in better health conditions.
There are set rules and regulations that every trekker on gorilla safari must observe and they equally play a great role towards protection of these rare apes in the wild and their environment from human encroachment. Visitors are advised to maintain a distance of about 7 (seven) meters at all times from gorillas. Other rules include no drinking, no eating or even smoking while in the forest, no tracking gorillas when you are sick, do not touch gorillas and others. These precautions are a must to be observed by any visitors on gorilla safari to Africa and they play a great role in conserving gorillas from the increasing threats especially from the spread of human infectious diseases.
All the protected area land is also demarcated and protected from encroachers and given the profit sharing initiative mountain gorilla and wildlife conservation has become a communal responsibility in which local resident don’t go against habitat conservation where these critically endangered apes thrive from. Gorilla tracking has however featured as a true sustainable tourism adventure given that it has become an overall effort not to destabilize the habitat where most of these rare species thrive.
Also, there is balance between number of trekkers and apes where only 8 (eight) people are allowed to track one group of gorillas and only one hour is allowed for one to have a face to face encounter with gorillas in the wild and this rule is highly observed.
The management of gorilla parks is recruited from the local communities surrounding the parks. These people for instance are employed as park guides, rangers, porters, and hoteliers, thus, take part in gorilla conversations because its their source of earning.
In conclusion therefore, through gorilla trekking, eco tourism can easily be enhanced in various ways since this adventure has become the most sought after experience in the world today and one of the leading sources for foreign exchange. The income generated helps in financing most of conservation and protection activities for these rare species and thus maintained provision of exotic experiences to visitors.