Mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) are an endangered primate species that a visitor can’t tour without. There has been an increase in the number of mountain gorillas which live in the Virunga Mountain Ranges of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Uganda. Today the population of these great apes stands at over 1087 individuals. These primates are at the heart of a growing tourism industry that has incentivized their continued protection, but close proximity between humans.
Due to covid-19 that have affected the whole world negatively, there are steady increase threats affecting mountain gorillas. Recently a gorilla was killed in Bwindi by poachers.
The gorillas that are located in the thick forest of Virunga Conservation Area are highly affected by poaching and these include the eastern lowland gorilla found in the lowland forests of eastern DR Congo, the western lowland gorilla found in lowland forests of central and western Africa and the cross-river gorilla living along the Cross River along the border of Nigeria and Cameroon.
Despite the fact that mountain gorillas have been affected by coronavirus, there have resulted into the suspension of primate watching safaris in various national parks such as Bwindi impenetrable national park, Mgahinga National Park, Volcanoes national park and the Virunga national park.
Due to suspension, there has been steady increase of gorilla threats where gorillas have been killed by poachers just like rafiki gorilla silverback in Nkuringo gorilla family in Bwindi Impenetrable national park which is located in southwestern part of Uganda. This incident has made UWA to deploy more security guides in all national parks in Uganda to maintain the increase of the gorillas in their thick forest for touristic attractions.
The Virunga Conservation area has worked hand in hand with non-government conservation organization bodies such as Dian Fossey Fund whose focus is to protect gorillas in Rwanda and DR Congo. However much the conservationists work their best to protect gorillas in their thick forest, there are still challenges facing gorillas especially those gorilla subspecies that are less cared for than those habituated gorillas.
What is the biggest threats gorillas face in virunga conservation area?
The mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is one of humanity’s closest relatives and the largest primate that mostly attracted by visitors in virunga conservation area. Due to the genetic similarity between humans and gorillas, gorillas are easily affected by infectious diseases that affect people. Such diseases include Ebola, flue and Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV), and respiratory pathogens transmitted from humans, have been confirmed as important sources of mortality in wild gorillas and chimpanzees.
During gorilla trekking, visitors are briefed about the dos and don’ts of gorilla trekking in the jungle. Some of these rules include illed visitors are not allowed to trek in the jungle to safe guard the lives of gorillas which live in groups and can easily spread the disease quickly within other groups in the forest and keeping 10meter distance away from gorillas to prevent them from diseases. While awareness of the threat has increased, interventions such as vaccination and treatment remain controversial.
Poaching has increased rapidly in all national parks during lockdown. Recently four men were imprisoned for killing rafiki gorilla silverback which was commonly known for leading Nkuringo gorilla family for 25 years. “These four men were imprisoned for being found in possession of wildlife specimens, illegal entry into a protected area and killing an endangered species” said by UWA spokesman. Steady increase of poaching was caused by the suspension of national parks due to coronavirus where people have hunted animals for survival.
Due to the fact that gorillas live in the forest were local communities are located, people degrade the forest to get land for agriculture, and clear the trees for get firewood. Despite the fact that trees are cut, gorillas are forced to migrate in search for thick forest were they feel comfortable to live in. furthermore, Infrastructure development causing habitat loss and degradation, and possible disruption to mountain gorilla health and behavior are also an emerging threat, as well as a changing climate.