Gorilla Habituation is an interesting safari experience where a traveler gets a chance to enjoy the presence of being up close with the mountain gorillas for long. Gorillas are some of the endangered species of mammals that still live in Africa. These mountain gorillas have been a center of attraction for over the years and tourists have been flocking the national parks in Africa to spot these primates in their natural habitat. The endangered mountain gorillas live in the dense tropic forests of Africa and one has to trek them in order to find them. A lot of projects have been set up to bring these primates to the open-world or get to be known by the world through the habituation process done by different organizations and government bodies.
Gorilla habituation process
Habituation of gorillas is a process that involves a team of researchers and rangers that visit a particular family of wild gorillas every day until it gets used to these researchers. After some time, the researchers are able to record and identify the individuals of the group basing on sex, age, behavior plus assigning names. Once the research is done, then the gorilla family can be visited by tourists. However, to be confident that it can be visited, they conduct a mock exercise for 6 to 8 months and once it is successful then you can visit these habituated gorillas.
Uganda and Rwanda have the largest number of these endangered gorillas and this has enabled them habituate a pretty good number of gorilla families that are open for tourism and research. The process of gorilla habituation can take from 2 to 3 years to be completed. In Uganda, a group of researchers operates under the Department of Research and Monitoring which is under the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Most of the gorilla habituation process started in the 1960s with the aim to protect and conserve the primates. In the past years, gorillas have been hunted and killed for their meat and pet markets by the poachers. Different organizations mostly the government bodies came up to develop and gazette areas for these endangered mammals. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda contains about half the population of the mountain gorillas started habituation in 1991 after it was established in the same year. Started with 2 families and now has over 12 habituated gorilla families. For the Virunga Massif’s national parks, the efforts to protect and preserve the mountain gorillas started in the 1960s up to date. The funds for preserving and protecting these primates have been highly gotten from gorilla tourism activities that generate funds to support the projects.
About 19 mountain gorilla groups have been habituated for tourism and research since 1993 such as the Mubare gorilla group which was habituated and opened for tourism in the same year and was the first family to be trekked by tourists. Two more mountain gorilla groups were added to Mubare and these are Rushegura and Habinyanja gorilla group found in the sector of Buhoma in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
In the Virunga Massif, which is shared between Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, 20 gorilla groups have been habituated and Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park has one family known as Nyakagezi and more than 10 gorilla groups have been habituated in Volcanoes National Park such as Umubano Group, Amahoro group, The Agashya Group, Kwitonda group, Hirwa group, Bwenge Group, Ugenda group, Sabyinyo group, Susa group (A) and Susa group (B) that live in the dormant volcanoes of Volcanoes National Park.
Additionally, different government bodies operate and supervise the projects of preserving and protecting the gorillas for example in Uganda, Uganda Wildlife Authority and in Rwanda it is Rwanda Development Board while in Democratic Republic of Congo the national parks are operated under Congolese Institute for Natural Conservation.
Is gorilla habituation still happening?
Gorilla habituation is still an activity being carried out and it is only happening in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda while other national parks such as Virunga National Park, Volcanoes National Park and Mgahinga National Park, only carry out gorilla trekking.
In Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, they introduced an activity known as gorilla habituation experience that is operated under Uganda Wildlife Authority. Gorilla habituation experience involves tourists spending about four hours with the wild gorillas and to do so, the tourists move together with the researchers to a particular group that is under the habituation process.
The habituation experience was established in the southern region of Rushaga sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in 2014. Two groups have been habituated under this program such as the Bikyingi gorilla family and the Bushaho gorilla family. Bikyingi family is situated in Rushanga area with 21 members including 1 silverback, 9 adult females, 2 sub-adults, and 9 infants while Bushaho gorilla family is situated in Nkuringo sector with 8 members including 1 silverback, 3 adult females, 1 black back, 1 sub-adult, 1 juvenile, and 2 infants.
Gorilla habituation experience is a remarkable activity that every visitor should encounter during their gorilla safari. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the only national park in the world that is still carrying out this activity. A maximum of four people are allowed to join the team of researchers to carry out gorilla habituation experience and it is done two times making it 8 permits issued per day and you are supposed to spend a maximum of 4 hours with the gorillas compared to the one hour of gorilla trekking. For anyone to go for gorilla habituation experience, you need a gorilla permit that goes for $1500 USD per person and per experience.
Gorilla habituation rules and regulations
Gorilla habituation rules and regulations are quite similar to gorilla trekking and some of these include the following;
- Gorilla habituation is done by people above the age of 15 years
- Always follow the instructions of the guides and the rangers during gorilla habituation
- You are recommended not to make a lot of noise in the forest and when in the presence of the gorillas
- Keep a distance of at least 8 meters away from the gorillas
- You should leave behind your flash if you are to take photographs of these endangered primates
- You should not be sick because you will not be allowed to join the team for gorilla habituation. This is done to protect the gorillas from getting infected with the disease.
- You must be in good physical shape because you will be following the gorillas in whatever direction they take and the activity goes for around 4 hours.
What is the difference between gorilla habituation and gorilla trekking?
There are a lot of differences between gorilla habituation and gorilla trekking but the main difference is that gorilla habituation lets tourists be in presence of the gorillas for four hours while gorilla trekking takes about one hour in the presence of the gorillas. Additionally, gorilla permits for habituation cost $1500 USD while the gorilla permits for gorilla trekking cost $600 USD per now and starting next year in July they will be costing $700 in Uganda only.
In general, gorilla habituation is a fascinating activity that is gaining popularity over the years and many tourists are opting for gorilla habituation than gorilla trekking. This is because of the benefits that come with it. So in other words gorilla habituation will give you a memorable and extensive gorilla safari in Africa.