The rapid decrease in the number of mountain gorillas in the late 80s and 90s in the Virunga conservation areas that stretches across the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and democratic republic of Congo raised the attention of Dian Fossey an American primatologist who dedicated her life to saving the primates in the area. She discovered that responsible tourism was the only way to save the rare mountain gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and democratic republic of Congo. The Increased interest in their conservation, coupled with the advent of gorilla tourism in the 1980s and 90s, raised mountain gorilla populations steadily to 880 at present. Responsible tourism combines many things including; ecotourism, proper management of the National Park and gorilla tourism which help to conserve and preserve not only the mountain gorillas but also other wild life in national parks.
Responsible tourism is concerned with the conserving, preserving, maintaining and protecting the wildlife within their habitats. This has mainly helped in increasing the number of wildlife species within the national parks. It has greatly promoted the conservation of mountain gorillas in the national parks of Bwindi impenetrable forest, Mgahinga in Uganda, volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park in democratic republic of Congo, this is through conservation programs all put in action by responsible tourism.
It finances the bulk of wildlife and habitat conservation across the country as a whole but it has also turned the gorillas into a valuable commodity prized by local communities, these gentle gorillas provide much-needed funding for local infrastructure and a source of employment on both a local and national level. Gorilla tourism has become a valuable source of revenue for the governments as well as the local communities adjacent to these protected areas. The gorilla permit, a requirement for visitors taking gorilla safaris costs 600$ in Uganda and 750$ in Rwanda which revenue is used to support government programs and local communities as well.
However,the gorilla tourism sector is guided by a set of rules and regulations for example a maximum of 8 people are allowed to visit one gorilla family for the maximum of 1 hour, tourist who have illness such as influenza and cough are restricted from interacting with the gorillas. Sharing with gorilla by the tourists and coming in close contact is also discouraged because mountain gorillas share 98% of the human DNA and are susceptible to human diseases.
Continuous monitoring and checking is ensured for the good health of mountain gorillas in their habitats, gorilla doctors have been trained and employed to treat and operate the injured mountain gorillas in Bwindi, Mgahinga, Volcanoes and Virunga national parks all funded and supported by responsible gorilla tourism for example in the first few weeks of 2013, the Gorilla Doctors, a veterinary team providing the gorillas with medical care in Rwanda, Uganda and DRC, performed four medical interventions on gorillas trapped in snares, injured gorillas were operated by the gorilla doctors ensuring good health. These gorillas are injured but the traps and snares set by the hunters and poachers who target other primates but gorillas end up as the victims.
More still, education and awareness has been promoted for all the participants in gorilla tourism. Responsible codes of conduct by tourists, involvement of local people and sharing of gorilla tourism benefits between the government and local people around the protected areas has promoted good relations creating a good environment for the mountain gorillas.
Infrastructural development in local communities connecting to all protected areas has been supported by responsible tourism. This eases the movement of both tourists to the protected areas and local people as they transport their local products such as agricultural products that support livelihood of the local people and enable tourists to participate in wildlife tourism especially gorilla tourism in right time saving the rare mountain gorillas from misuse and irresponsible tourism practices.
Development through conservation programs have been promoted, these have helped local people to improve their livelihoods while at the same time conserving the rare endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic republic of Congo.
Conclusively, responsible tourism is the only way in which mountain gorillas can be saved through conservation, helps governments to earn revenue through the selling of permits, supports local communities and provides tourists with the memorable experience in their travel life time.