How Tourism helps the Gorillas of Rwanda
Should we really be entering the habitat of some of the most endangered primates left on our earth, or should we just leave them alone? In my humble opinion – and in hindsight – gorilla safari tourism has been an unprecedented success.
In an ideal world we would leave endangered wildlife to their own devices so that they can live in peace and re-populate undisturbed, but the truth is that this is just not possible these days.
The human population is exploding across the world, putting pressure on food resources, infrastructure and natural resources. This puts huge pressure on the wildlife left on our planet’s surface, and Rwanda is no exception.
Rwanda is one of the smallest countries in Africa yet it is also one of the most densely populated with a fast growing economy. The growth of the economy is fantastic for the human population, but not for the gorillas.
Look at any aerial map of this beautiful country and you will see the patch work fields criss-crossing the countryside, surrounding one small green mass encompassing the Virunga Volcanoes and the last stronghold of the endangered mountain gorillas.
Eco-tourism has undoubtedly bought money and therefore stability to this small corner of Africa. With gorilla permits now costing USD$1,500 per person per day, this is a booming eco-tourism project.
Ok, I am sure at least some of this money is misappropriated, however a vast amount of it also filters through to the right areas, to the guides and anti-poaching patrols, to the park authorities, to the local communities that gain employment and improved infrastructure from the presence of this tourism.
As a result of ever present tourists within the area, Rwanda has also resulted in improved security, this means less poaching, tighter border patrols with its rather unstable neighbour DRC and as a result, increased mountain gorilla populations.
This is proven categorically by the numbers. Approximately 12 years ago, the mountain gorilla population was struggling at around 640, since then it has increased dramatically to 840 individuals. This does bring with it its own problems as the remaining habitat is so limited and surrounded on all side by human encroachment, but at least things are heading in the right direction.
Maybe more notice should be taken of this example. Rhinos, pangolins, elephants and more are under threat – we need to act quickly if we are going to halt the destruction of our natural world, as in recent years we have plundered our natural resources and it will soon be too late to do anything about it.