A Sustainable Tourism Activity is one that does not create a negative impact on the people, wildlife inhabitants or the environment. Mountain Gorilla Tracking is one such Sustainable Tourism activity.
Tracking the Mountain Gorillas is the most unusual and memorable wildlife adventure in Africa, possibly the world. Uganda is the habitat of half of the world’s Mountain Gorillas; they are located in 2 of the National Parks, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park. In order to track the Mountain Gorillas, you must first pre-apply for a permit from the Uganda Wildlife Authority. This permit costs $750 U.S. per person. There are only 8 people maximum per day that are permitted to track a particular Mountain Gorilla family. After you have received approval of the permit(s), you can then book your itinerary.
The day that you are booked to Track the Gorillas, you must report to the Ranger’s post for a short briefing, after which you will start your tracking, together with a Ranger guide. As the Mountain Gorillas move about the forest, it is not known exactly where you particular Gorilla family will be on the day that you are tracking them; this means that it could take anywhere from 2 to 8 hours to encounter the Gorillas. You are permitted to spend one hour with the Gorillas.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority have been empowered to enforce the regulations pertaining to protection and security of the Mountain Gorillas; each person that wants to track the Silverbacks is given a briefing of park etiquette and the dos and don’ts. This monitoring of the visitors to the Gorilla habitat helps to maintain a harmonious and stress-free life for the Gorillas; this attention to non-disturbance of the Gorillas and their environment ensures that this activity is sustainability. There is no negative impact on the Gorillas or their habitat.
These Mountain Gorillas and their habitat are being conserved by the Wildlife Authority and a large portion of the permit fee to track the Gorillas goes to the maintenance and upkeep of both the Mountain Gorillas and their habitat. Historically, these Mountain Gorillas have been endangered because of poaching as well as habitat loss; the park rangers are the monitors of uninvited people to the forests and maintain a 24 hour vigilance. Poachers are dealt with to the full extent of the law and the cost of this security comes partially from the Tracking Fees as well.
In addition, 20% of the Tracking Fees goes to the local communities that surround the park; 80% to the maintenance of the infrastructure in and around the park.
STATUS OF MOUNTAIN GORILLA FAMILIES IN BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST AND MGAHINGA NATIONAL PARKS
The Ugandan Wildlife Authority regularly monitor and update their information on the 14 Gorilla Families; as of March 2016, the following details have been summarized by Gorilla Family name:
The Rushegura Gorilla family has 13 members; the current leader is a Silverback by the name of Kabukojo, whose younger brother, Kalembezi helps him co-lead the family. The most recent birth in this family occurred on July 28th, 2015.
The Mubare Gorilla family has 11 members, the current leader is a Silverback by the name of Kanyenyi. In the last four years, Kanyenyi has had 5 forced marriages with females from other families and sired several offspring; rejuvenating the Mubare family from a dwindling 3 members to the current 11. The most recent birth in this family occurred on May 24, 2015.
The Habinyanja Gorilla family has 17 members; the current leader is a Silverback by the name of Makara. Of interest is that this family has a stubborn prodigal member, Maraya, who left the family in 2011, but often comes back to cause chaos in the family; then moves back to solitary life. The most recent birth in this family occurred in January 2016.
The Bitukura Gorilla family has 15 members; the current leader is a Silverback by the name of Ndahura. This family has 4 silverbacks peacefully co-existing, including the retired leader, Karamuzi. The most recent birth in this family occurred in October 2015.
The Oruzogo Gorilla family has 17 members; the current leader is a Silverback by the name of Bakwate. There is another Silverback in the family, Kagaanga, but he is submissive to Bakwate. The most recent birth in this family occurred in November 2014.
The Kyaguliro Gorilla family has 20 members; the current leadership is a young Silverback by the name of Mukiza, but his authority is being contested by an immigrant Silverback, Rukara, from the Bitukura family. Mukiza abruptly took over the family leadership following the sudden death of his predecessor, Rukina in April 2015. The immigrant Silverback, Rukara is currently commanding a section of the family members, but still closely pulling ropes with Mukiza. The most recent birth occurred on February 5th, 2016.
The Nshongi Gorilla family has 7 members; the current leader is a Silverback by the name of Bweza. The initial Nshongi family had several Silverbacks, who ended up toughly contesting for power, resulting in the split of the family into 2. At the same time several male family members dispersed. The most recent birth occurred in October 2015.
The Bweza Gorilla family has 12 members, a splinter group of the original Nshongi family. The current leader is a Silverback named Kakono. The most recent birth occurred in September 2015.
The Kahungye Gorilla family has 18 members; the leader of the family is a Silverback by the name of Rumanzi. There are also two submissive Silverbacks in this family, Rwigyi, the oldest and Ruzika, the youngest. The most recent birth in this family occurred in July 2014.
The Busingye Gorilla family has 9 members; the leader of the family, following his successful split from the Kahungye family with other members in March of 2012, is a Silverback named Busingye. The most recent birth in this family occurred on July 27, 2015.
The Bikingi Gorilla family has 17 members, the leader is a Silverback that has been dominant since the onset of the group’s habituation. This new group offers a 4-hour tourism experience. The most recent birth in this family occurred on July 29th, 2015.
The Nkuringo Gorilla family has 12 members; the leader is a Silverback by the named Rafiki. This family has two Silverbacks, the second in command is named Kirungi. The most recent birth in this family occurred on April 25, 2015.
The Bushaho Gorilla family has 10 members; the Silverback that is the leader has been dominant since the onset of habituation. .This group is also available for a 4-hour habituation tourism experience. The most recent birth in this family occurred in October 2015.
The Nyakagezi Gorilla family has 10 members; the leader is a Silverback by the name of Mark. This group has the highest number of Silverbacks in a single family, five; there are 2 adult females and 3 young members. The last birth recorded in this family was on October 19, 2013, but the infant died two weeks later.