Mountain gorillas are core tourists’ attractions in Rwanda inhabiting the forested mountains of volcanoes national park located in northwestern part of the country. They are ranked among the most endangered species and its true they are very endangered with only 1000 of them remaining on the planet. All the 900 mountain gorillas remaining on earth can live in three countries (Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo) and they are therefore the only places where mountain gorillas can be seen by tourists in their ecosystems relaxing or doing their usual activities. Before, there were many mountain gorillas however their numbers kept on reducing with time because of too much poaching, diseases, human encroachment on the mountain gorillas’ habitats and civil wars where mountain gorilla habitats were turned into fighting grounds.
During the 1993 Rwandese genocide, volcanoes national park was closed until 1999 when the country had regained peace. By then, the mountain gorillas population was also still low which forced the government of Rwanda to adopt conservation policies that were aimed at ensuring a population increase of these rare apes. Many efforts to reduce the rate of poaching were already being enforced especially increased sensitization of the local people to teach them the importance of the mountain gorillas towards revenue generation. This strategy worked a lot as many poachers around volcanoes national park were forced to drop their poaching habits and instead resorted to adopting alternative means of gaining income instead of poaching. Many former poachers today are employed as rangers and guides while others are used as ambassadors of conservation.
Apart from sensitization, the government of Rwanda also introduced the baby mountain gorilla naming ceremony in 2005 where a number of people gather every year around volcanoes national park to give names to the newly born mountain gorillas. This act is commonly known as the Kwita Izina ceremony and it attracts a number of people from various parts of the world. In the process of naming the gorillas, the people are again reminded of the importance of mountain gorillas most of them thereby getting encouraged to ensure conservation in any way they can.
Naming the baby mountain gorillas is a way of enabling easy monitoring of the activities of these animals and to easily know their population.
Another way of ensuring conservation of the mountain gorillas has been through regulation of visitor numbers to only 8 of them trekking one mountain gorilla family a day. The 8 tourists are just given one hour to interact with the mountain gorillas that they do within a reasonable distance a way from the mountain gorillas. This regulation is done to reduce minimize chances of disease spreading from humans to the endangered apes because about 98% of their DNA is similar to human beings.
Because of the major conservation strategies enforced, the mountain gorilla population in volcanoes national park has greatly increased and today the national has half of the mountain gorillas in the Virunga area and is a number one and most preferred mountain gorillas trekking destination compared to its counterpart national parks in Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Volcanoes national park now has over 350 mountain gorillas with 18 mountain gorilla families 10 of which are habituated and therefore open for tourists visitation.
The mountain gorillas of Rwanda can be best trekked during the dry season and the permits are sold at only $750 per permit per person. Every day, only 80 mountain gorilla permits are available and therefore any one interested in gorilla trekking should ensure to acquire a permit as soon as possible to avoid missing out. Trekking these unique apes is a life changing activity and one of the things adventurous tourists should not miss out in their lifetime.