Can Gorilla Tourism be Sustained?

Mountain Gorilla RwandaA report by scientific researchers Chloe Hodgkinson and Phyllis Lee, published in the American Journal of Primatology indicates that Gorilla Tourism in Central African nations such as Rwanda and Uganda may come under pressure. As the report implies, this is due to the stresses that these magnificent creatures are being subjected too, during close proximity visits from humans. The report also suggests that the minimum distance be increased from 7 to 18 meters, and that the wearing of face masks also be compulsory, to stop the transmission of disease. Some scientists believe that the visit’s should be somewhat rolled back, while others believe it should be stopped all together.

This is a subject that is dear to my heart, as i’ve personally had the pleasure of visiting, and sitting with these majestic animals on two occasions. The first way back in 1993, where I visited the eastern lowland gorilla’s in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). The second time with Liza in 2003 in Rwanda, to see the mountain gorilla’s at the awe-inspiring, Parc National des Volcans. (The image heading this post was taken during this trip).

It was during this second visit, that we were quite fortunate to be in Rwanda whilst the Discovery Channel were filming a documentary on the 40th anniversary of Dr George Schaller’s initial report on these great animals, first published back in 1963.

This was several years before Diane Fossey, and Louis Leacky would then follow Dr Shallers ground breaking research into this field. Liza and I were fortunate enough to meet Dr George Schaller, in the small guest house we were staying in, close to the park. After dinner on the night of our visit, we had an enchanting discussion with him about the gorillas, and his research.

I sincerely hope that visits continue, as the hard currency that gorilla tourism excursions brings to the local communities in these poor nations, is quite large. Also the life changing experience that one gets just sitting with these incredible creatures for only one hour, should not be lost forever. Obviously the number of sittings with the groups need to be decreased, to reduce the stress put on the animals as indicated by the report, but it’s a two edge sword, as without the eco-tourism I honestly believe these animals would now be extinct.

An article in The Guardian can be read here, or the full report can be read in the American Journal of Primatology available by online subscription here.

[Update - It Seems that 4 gorilla have died in Rwanda recently due to extreme cold - further details here]

Related Posts with Thumbnails
TAGS: , ,


You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment