Tourism in the realm of the mountain gorilla
The annual revenue earned directly from gorilla tourism is estimated at US$3 million. When combined with the additional income received by, for example hotels and restaurants, the total figure may exceed US$20 million shared between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Tourism, even when well managed, undoubtedly poses a certain health risk to the gorillas, but its contribution to the welfare of the local communities is crucial.
Gorillas and tourism are inextricably linked. Arguably, neither has a future without the other. Reconciling the demand for tourist dollars with the needs of the gorillas is a delicate balancing act. The key is to minimize the risk of disease transmission and to avoid disrupting the gorillas’ natural behaviour. Accordingly, tourists must abide by very strict rules. Gradual harmonization of such rules and regulations across all four parks is paving the way for the development of a regional tourism programme.
The long-term success of gorilla tourism hinges on the enthusiasm and commitment of the local communities around the parks. IGCP and its partners have introduced mechanisms such as revenue sharing schemes to ensure that these people benefit directly from tourism.
Gorillas are by no means the only regional tourist attraction. A wealth of stunning wildlife, breathtaking scenery, challenging hikes and fascinating culture are, in themselves, persuasive arguments for visiting the region.
In Rwanda, for example, IGCP is also collaborating with the park authorities and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund to diversify tourism. New trails have been built to Mount Visoke’s summit and crater lake, to Dian Fossey’s grave, and to Lake Ngezi, thereby encouraging visitors to linger in the park and helping the development of local enterprises linked to tourism in the region. Three groups of golden monkeys Cercopithecus mitis kandtii, a beautiful blue monkey subspecies found only in the Virungas have also been habituated (two in PNV and one in MGNP) and can be visited daily.
Find out more about Gorillas
If you value the natural world, if you believe it should be conserved for its own sake as well as for humanity’s, then please lend your support.
- — Sir David Attenborough