Conservation: Gorilla Trekking in Uganda
When it comes to conservation, Uganda prioritizes the protection of gorillas of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. You can help too! When you choose a gorilla trek, you must pay a gorilla permit. Fees are redirected back into conservation. Read on to learn more about gorilla trekking in Uganda. When you are ready, we can help get you there.
Being in the presence of wild silverbacks – it’s one of those experiences that will stay with you forever. I was able to do a gorilla trek in Uganda a few years back. It was a challenge for me – our group hiked for several hours through dense brush, and it had just rained the day before making everything slippery and muddy. A few points along the way, I had wondered just what I had gotten myself into. But then, thanks to our trusty trackers, we came upon a silverback.
Face-to-face with a silverback
During my Uganda gorilla trek, a massive silverback stood up to see us, and I happened to be nearest to him. I instinctively crouched low (as we had been instructed to do). It certainly got my heart pumping – but the gorilla was just as curious about us as we were about him. And there were babies above us, good reason for the gorilla to establish his ranking. Our small group hunkered down in silence for the next hour – 60 minutes precisely – to watch these magnificent creatures. I tried to soak up the minutes, alternating between trying to capture a perfect image and just sit there and enjoy their presence. They paid no attention to us – the silverback sat back, watching. The babies frolicked above us. It was magical.
Beyond the right hiking shoes and gear, I had prepared for this moment, reading as much information as I could at the time about gorilla trekking in Uganda, gorilla conservation and their decline.
In the 1970s, the gorilla population of Uganda hit dangerously low numbers with only 230 silverbacks (down from around 580 a decade earlier). Poaching and forest devastation were among the top reasons for their decline which landed this incredible species on the critically endangered list. There are many reasons why mountain gorillas are sought after by poachers, most commonly for bush meat and pet trading, however, there are many non-traditional reasons as well including the collecting of certain body parts that are said to have witch doctor powers for healing purposes. But the primary factor that led to the decrease in population is habitat loss – people settled on the mountains in which the gorillas reside.
At one point when the idea was percolating years earlier to do a Uganda gorilla trek, I wasn’t even sure that gorillas would be around that much longer. But there’s good news these days.
Thanks to gorilla conservation efforts, officials are reporting that the number of gorillas in the region is increasing again. A 2018 Ugandan survey marked a record high for the mountain gorilla population with 604 individuals, though WWF reports that the mountain gorillas officially broke 1,000 individuals as of spring 2019.
Many of you may have first heard about Virunga in the recent award-winning documentary about the region and the risks rangers take daily to protect the gorillas of the Congo.
The first national park in Africa, Virunga National Park, is home to the Virunga Volcanoes and half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas. Virunga National Park also acted as a safe haven for refugees and those who had been displaced and fled the war zone. As time went on, there was an increasing amount of people who settled here, going higher and higher up the mountain as the human population grew. This forcefully pushed the gorillas up the mountains and allowed them to endure dangerous weather conditions. As the gorillas were surrounded by humans, there was little opportunity for them to move down the mountain. Being surrounded by humans also increased the likeliness of catching human diseases for the gorillas and made it easier for them to be hunted by humans.
In the 70s and 80s, the rapid decrease in the mountain gorilla population caught the attention of many gorilla conservation warriors and different organizations around the world. Dian Fossey was one of those early heroes in the efforts to save the gorillas. I read her book, Gorillas in the Mist, on my flight to Uganda, and finished reading it during my trip. It was incredible to soak up her information and insights while actually getting the chance to see wild gorillas.
Fossey set out to Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park in 1967 to study the mountain gorillas, which at the time, were critically endangered. Since Fossey’s passing (rumours abound that it was poachers who killed her in her jungle cabin in Rwanda), the number of mountain gorillas has more than doubled. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund continues to be the world’s largest as well as the longest-running organization that is fully dedicated to the conservation of gorillas.
World Wildlife Fund
WWF has works to reduce the factors that pushed the mountain gorillas toward critical endangerment. WWF works with the United Nations to purchase emergency fuelwood supplies for the people of Uganda and Rwanda so that fewer people would use the park as a source for fuel, endangering the habitat of the gorillas. WWF has also helped in the reforesting of the national park as well as setting up anti-poaching patrols to help protect the fragile species.
The Wildlife Conservation Society in Uganda (WCS) conserves mountain gorillas through its research stations and census counts to compare ecologies. One of its on-going initiatives also includes educating locals to change their behaviours that both, directly and indirectly, affect the population of the gorillas.
Why you should choose gorilla trekking in Uganda
One of the ways in which you can help conserve the mountain gorillas is by visiting them.
Proceeds from gorilla trekking in Uganda supports the conservation of the national parks where the gorillas live. Since the mountain gorillas generate the most foreign currency over any other activity, gorilla rekking in Uganda ensures the mountain gorillas will be protected while providing people with a safe and fun way to see and help the mountain gorillas.
Gorilla permits are expensive. In Rwanda, the cost of a single gorilla permit has risen to approximately $1500 USD. In Uganda, gorilla permit rates are approximately $600 USD. Keep in mind, however, that these fees are helping to limit the number of people who come in contact with these precious animals; and the fees are used to continue conservation efforts.
Whether you are a person who likes to join tours or travel solo, you have to do gorilla trekking in Uganda with a group. We can recommend experienced, trustworthy gorilla trek experiences to help you make the most of this experience. No sighting is ever guaranteed – and it can take anywhere from 45 minutes to eight hours of trekking to even find a gorilla – however, the success rate of trackers finding gorillas on the daily hikes is 95 per cent. It’s almost important to note that you only have 60 minutes once you find the gorillas, to sit by and watch them. Expect your guide to strictly enforce this 60-minute rule; it’s for the safety and preservation of the gorillas.