Gorilla rules

The mountain gorillas are the world’s most endangered species. This specie of Ape is only in small portions of protected Afromontane forests in northwest Rwanda, southwest Uganda and Eastern DRC. The mountain gorilla is one of many species unique to these forests. The forests are also home to many wonderful birds, primates, large mammals, reptiles, insects and plants and also ensure continued water to the local communities. The Mountain Gorillas are divided into two populations and current figures estimate the total population to be about 700 individuals. One of the populations is found in Bwindi Impenetrable national park in south western Uganda covering 330 km and other in the Virunga Volcano Range, Covering an approximate total of 450 km2. The Virunga is ecologically homogeneous (same flora and fauna covering three contagious national parks in three countries.

Mountain gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases. Strict adherences to the following rules by those planning to do a mountain gorilla safari will therefore limit health risks to gorillas:

Before departing on your gorilla trekking or gorilla tracking tour

  1. A maximum number of 8 visitors may trek to visit a group of habituated mountain gorillas per day. This minimizes behavioral disturbance to the gorillas and the risk of their exposure to human-borne diseases
  1. Always wash your hands before you go gorilla trekking

En route to trekking the gorillas

  1. You will be taken to where the guides have observed the Mountain Gorillas the day before. From there you will follow the gorilla’s trail. Look out for the gorillas’ nesting sites along the way
  1. Please always keep your voices low. You will also be able to observe the great bird life and other wildlife in the forest
  1. Do not leave rubbish in the park. Whatever you bring into the forest on your gorilla safari should be carried back out with you
  1. As you approach the mountain gorillas, the guides will alert you

When you are with the gorillas

  1. A 7 meter (21 feet) distance from the gorillas should be observed at all times. The further back you are, the more relaxed the group will be
  2. You must stay in a tight group when you are near the gorillas
  3. Keep your voices down at all times but feel free to ask your ranger / guide questions
  4. Do not smoke, drink or eat when you are near the gorillas. Eating or drinking will inevitably increase the risk of morsels of food or droplets of drink being left behind. Even the tiniest leftovers could increase the risk of transmission of disease to the gorillas
  5. Move slowly and carefully. Do not point or wave your arms
  6. Do not touch the gorillas. They are wild animals
  7. Occasionally, the gorillas charge. Don’t panic. Follow your ranger guide’s example: crouch down slowly, do not look the gorillas directly in the eyes; wait for the animals to pass. Do not attempt to run away
  8. Your subjects are black animals in dim light, so use the right camera settings. Flash photography is not permitted under any circumstances
  9. The maximum time you can spend with these wonderful animals is one hour. However, if the gorillas become agitated or nervous, the guide may decide to finish the visit early. This is for your safety and for the safety of the gorillas
  10. After the visit, you are bound to be excited, but please keep your voices down until you are 200 metres away from the gorillas
General Health Rules

Remember that mountain gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases. The following rules are ways to minimize the risk your visit might pose to them:

  1. Respect the limits imposed on the daily number of visitors allowed with the mountain gorillas. These limits minimize the risk of disease transmission and stress to the group
  1. If you are feeling ill, or you are carrying a contagious disease, volunteer to stay behind. An alternate gorilla trekking opportunity will be arranged for you, or you will be refunded the cost of your gorilla permit
  1. If you feel the urge to cough or sneeze when you are near the gorillas, please turn your head away and cover your nose and mouth in order to minimize the spread of bacteria or viruses
  1. Always stay 7 meters (21 feet) away from the gorillas. This is to protect them from catching human diseases
  1. Do not leave any rubbish (such as food wrappers or drink bottles) in the park; foreign items can harbor diseases or other contaminants
  1. If you need to go to the toilet while in the forest, please ask the ranger / guide to dig you a hole. Make sure the hole is 30 cm deep. Please ensure the hole is filled after you are done

Source: Uganda Wildlife Authority – www.uwa.org