A trek to the mountain gorillas is the greatest wildlife encounter according to David Attenbrough. Who are we to argue with the great maestro himself?
Broadly speaking there are two main types of gorilla. Mountain gorillas are found in the Virunga Mountains which straddle the border of Rwanda, Uganda and DRC, whilst lowland gorillas inhabit the forests of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, Congo, Equatorial Guinea and DRC.11
Mountain gorillas are more accessible with a number of families having been habituated. The permits to go gorilla tracking may seem pricey but the revenue they generate is used for the conservation of the forests these gentle giants inhabit as well as the primates themselves. Anyone visiting these parks is, by definition, ensuring the survival of these magnificent creatures.
Lowland gorillas may be harder to reach by virtue of the countries they inhabit, but a voyage to visit them is part of the adventure and the rewards of such a trip are great. Furthermore, as with their highland cousins, tracking Lowland gorillas does help raise much needed funds and awareness for conservation of the species.
Code of Conduct for visiting the Wild Mountain Gorillas
1. Minimum distance you should get from any gorilla group should be 7m. This is to prevent the transmission of airborne diseases that can travel considerable distances.
2. No visit should be longer than one hour from first sighting of the animals. The longer the viewing time the greater the exposure to human diseases.
3. We recommend that you should not take food with you on a visit to the gorillas. If food is taken then it should be eaten a minimum of 5 minutes walk from the gorilla group and all remains must be removed from the park. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, to prevent the attraction to, and conditioning by human food, secondly disease from humans can live on these food remains.
4. You should go to the toilet before commencing the visit to the gorillas. If you have to go to the toilet then you should dig a hole of at least 0.5 m (2ft) and treat the faeces with antiseptic solution before filling the hole. This is to avoid the contamination of the gorillas by human germs. Gorillas are known to eat faeces and soil hence these precautions.
5. Please remove all your litter. Absolutely nothing must be left including biodegradable litter. This is to preserve the ecology of the park and to avoid the spread of diseases.
6. If you are sick you should not visit the gorillas. This is to prevent exposing the gorillas to human diseases that they may not have any resistance to.
Join Exodus for a gorilla trek this year.