Gorilla Safaris in Rwanda are on a run due to Mountain gorillas which are the most critically endangered of all great apes. There are only 800 mountain gorillas in the wild, and 280 of them are in Rwanda’s Volcano Park. The rest are in neighboring Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Despite Volcano National Park’s relatively small size of 62 square miles and a high level of human habitation surrounding it, Rwanda has built up a thriving mountain gorilla population, as well as a booming business in gorilla tourism. In 1999, 417 tourists visited Rwanda’s gorillas, and by 2010 that number had increased to 23,000. With each tourist paying the park a fee of $500, that earns the park considerable income of $11.5 million.
To keep the tourism sustainable, the national park, working with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Foundation and the WWF, has substantially reduced the level of poaching, and is now counting rising numbers of its gorilla population. This has helped in conserving the mountain gorillas and hence increasing on gorilla adventures.
“Dian Fossey was not in favour of tourism, but now we are convinced that controlled tourism can be beneficial to the gorillas,” said Felix Ndagijimana, acting director of the Karisoke Research Centre, the Rwandan program of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. The gorillas are protected from poaching and are monitored by veterinarians. The gorillas habituated to human tourists have higher reproductive rates than wild gorillas and better overall health. “Without tourism, those gorillas would probably be gone,” said Ndagijimana.
It’s not easy to get gorillas to live so close to human populations. The humans, who are attracted by the super fertile volcanic soil, farm right up to the park boundaries. Traditionally, they would hunt wildlife by setting snares. But the parks have persuaded most to stop.
Five percent of the amount raised by the parks in gorilla tourism goes to the local community, and pays for electricity, schools, roads and other improvements. In addition, local residents are hired to tend the park and to seek out and remove snares. Such conservation given to the Gorilla in Volcano National Park has led to increased gorilla safaris to Rwanda.