Blogs

28
Sep

KATWE GORILLA FAMILY

The Katwe Gorilla group is the latest addition to the gorilla families of the Buhoma section of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in Uganda. Initially Buhoma sector had only three habituated mountain gorilla groups including Mubare gorilla group, Rushegura gorilla group and Habinyanja gorilla group.

This comes at a time where a recent survey documented 604 mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), the largest number of mountain gorillas ever recorded in the transboundary Virunga Massif, one of the two remaining areas where this Critically Endangered great ape is still found. The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda published figure of 400 mountain gorillas hence putting the total to an estimated 1,004 mountain gorillas.

It took close to three years to completely habituate the Katwe gorilla family located in northern part of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The inclusion of Katwe family means that the number of gorilla permits available daily for trekking in Buhoma region has increased from 24 to 32 gorilla permits since there are now four families. It should be noted that each habituated gorilla family is supposed to be trekked by a maximum 8 people for one hour.

The exact number of members in the Katwe group is not well known as yet but reliable sources claim the group has about 10 members including 1 dominant silverback,3 black-backs, 4 adult females and 2 babies.

27
Sep

NEWLY HABITUATED GORILLA GROUPS IN BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST NATIONAL PARK.

Due to the increased demand of Gorilla permits in the past quarter of the year, the Uganda Wildlife Authority released a statement that will put a smile on a number of faces around the world.

“We have increased the number of gorilla families for tracking from 15 to 17, following the successful habituation of Katwe group in Buhoma and Christmas group in Nkuringo. Visitors can book tracking of these families”, the statement said. This was said during the release of “The public statement on reservations and payments for gorilla tracking permits”

The Authority also promised on developing an improved full cashless system for payment of permits hence reduce the risk of losing money and promised to inform about the results in a short while.

 

Gorilla habituation is loosely described as the process by which the wild mountain gorillas are trained to get used to people hence becoming safe to be visited.

 

With the addition of Katwe Gorilla group and Christmas Gorilla group in Buhoma and Nkuringo respectively, there will be an increase in gorilla permits up to a tune of over 136 daily in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.

 

Katwe gorilla group now brings the total number of habituated mountain gorilla families to four in Buhoma others being Mubare group, Habinyanja group and the Rushegura group whereas Christmas gorilla group will bring the Nkuringo population to three families others including the pioneer Nkuringo group and the Bushaho group.

5
Mar

8 items to pack for a gorilla trekking safari

Planning for gorilla trekking is far different from the experience of going in game drive vehicles rather it requires physical fitness and active hiking over steep terrain. Therefore a gorilla safaris should be planned ahead so as to get prepared for the hairy cousins.

GORILLA SAFARI PACKING LIST

  • Sturdy foot wear such as hiking boots or rubber boots that cover up the ankle-knee joint. It’s so important to be ready for muddy trails, deep trenches, sharp rocks and tangled vegetation. Rubber boots are easily and quickly cleaned and get dry very fast.

 

  • Gators with wool stockings underneath should also be carried to keep you dry.

 

  • Long pants made of quick drying material prevent you from stinging nettles and thorny bushes. Gorilla trekking may be easier during dry period however, during the wet season in April to May and October to November; trekkers must wear waterproof pants on top of their normal trousers.

 

  • Long sleeved shirts or T-shirts for warmth since you are not sure of the time you might spend in the forest. Trekkers usually experience heat during walking but later as the gorillas are found, coldness is assured. It’s also important to have an additional sweater and a waterproof jacket since rain can fall rainfall any time of the day in the gorilla national parks.

 

  • Trekkers are also recommended to wear a neck towel, bush hut with neck strap or head cover to prevent dew drops or spider webs from your head and face.

 

  • Gardening gloves are very important since you’ll be griping vegetation with stinging nettles or thorns.

 

  • Trekkers need a small day pack to keep their cameras and its equipment such as batteries, lenses and or binoculars because photographing gorillas will be a memorable experience. The day pack also keeps your water, food and other items like insect repellent and personal medicine. It is advised to hire a porter at the beginning of the trek so as to assist you hike steep slopes on top of carrying your backpack.

 

  • Importantly, you must pack enough food and at least 3 liters of drinking water since there are no places to buy your favorite drinks or food once you have entered gorilla national parks. However, most of the lodges or hotels usually pack food for their clients. Energy drinks are also advised to keep you energetic and walk up to the gorilla families.

 

24
Feb

Kwita Izina – Gorilla naming Ceremony

Kwita izina is a yearly gorilla naming ceremony in Rwanda that was formed in 2005 with the major goal to increase gorilla conservation efforts and monitoring Rwanda’s gorillas numbers. This is also greatly benefited local tourism business and conservation education.

Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills is among the only 3 places on earth where mountain gorillas live. Volcanoes national park in the north is a home to over 200 gorillas which are part of the virunga conservation area including Uganda and DRC.

Mountain Gorillas are the main tourist attractions in Rwanda and have attracted many tourists. Gorilla tourism is driving economic growth in Rwanda through revenues and local community Conservation. This is a reflection of the growing number of the critically endangered mountain gorilla population as an achievement of sustainable tourism development and conservation.

As a result of increased tourism, human threats to gorillas also increase especially human disease transmission. In addition to poaching and habitat loss, Rwanda created “Kwita izina” as a strategy to monitor its gorilla population.

Since 2005when the Kwita Izina was introduced, about 216 baby gorillas has been given names which plays an important role in monitoring the gorillas in the habituated families and their habitat range. Last year, the event rocked Musanze witnessed on 2nd, September 2016, the naming of nineteen baby gorillas including a pair of twins.
Since 2005, the gorilla naming ceremony has grown into a yearly event attracting many local and international visitors. The 2015 celebrations saw a massive attendance of 500 international guests and over 20,000 local people.
Many guests who come for the ceremony find it interesting to arrange excursions around Kigali city visiting attractions such as genocide memorial sites, museums, craft markets, cultural events and to the national parks such as Akagera national, Nyungwe forest national park.

Naming new born gorillas is a way of recording the increase in the population of mountain gorillas in the virunga mountains region partly because of strong conservation that has put an end to human activities like poaching, habitat encroachment, illegal wildlife trade and human diseases transmission.

The Rwandan Development Board (RDB) which governs tourism in Rwanda, carried out a population census of gorillas in volcanoes national park between 2010- 2014 and results indicated a 26 % increase of gorilla numbers from less than 250 to about 400 individual gorillas.
Meanwhile, the board is currently undertaking another census of mountain gorilla population in volcanoes national park as expected to announce results during next year’s celebrations.

The baby gorilla naming ceremony is a way of raising awareness of protecting and conserving mountain gorillas on a national, regional and international level. People will share ideas on how to promote Rwanda as a leading eco tourism destination beyond the mountain gorillas. Rwanda has 4 national parks, several rift valley lakes such as Lake Kivu and high altitude tropical volcanic mountains which remain undiscovered.

According to the Rwandan Development Board (RDB), managing wildlife including mountain gorillas won’t be the role of the government in isolation but rather intentional partnerships bringing together the private sector, local communities and the youth.

The yearly conversation on conservation forums feature a series of proceeding activities which have evolved from the previous Kwita Izina celebrations. These have educated local and foreign visitors in Rwanda to collectively conserve wildlife especially gorillas.
the yearly pre and during event activities are always open for all guests include; naming baby gorillas ceremony, tourism exhibitions, launching of community development projects building on last year’s projects and a fundraising dinner which will take place at Kigali international convention centre.

These activities are geared towards getting practical solutions to challenges facing conservation of mountain gorillas and other wildlife from which tourism in Rwanda depend on.

As one of the greatest conservation achievements, it’s worth celebrating the harmony of nature and people. Several community projects have been set up around Volcanoes National Park to enhance visitor experience. The Iby ‘iwacu cultural village is one of the successful community conservation projects displaying Rwandan traditional culture. Visitors to this cultural village can take part in traditional activities such as local food preparation, fire making and banana beer brewing along with unique entertainment by intore (warrior) dance performances.

27
Jan

Dian Fossey Grave Site

Dian Fossey was an American primatologist who conducted ground breaking research about mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park since the 1960’s up to her death in 1985. Dian established a mountain gorilla research centre in 1967 between Mt. karisimbi at (4507 m) and Mt. Bisoke at 3,700 meters above sea level. She named the research centre Karisoke which is symbolic to the two great volcanic mountains.

In 1966 Dian Fossey ventured into the DR Congo virunga forest to continue studying mountain gorillas which were being poached and killed due to the undergoing civil strife at the time. Such political turmoil forced her to relocate to Rwanda where she finally established a small camp that would be the present scientific research centre Karisoke.
Dian Fossey Hike
With her new location being mountainous, it was difficult to move in the forest due to cold conditions that she had not been exposed too. Such unfavorable conditions forced her fellow researchers to return to their home countries which left her as a stand a lone woman trying to forge relationship with local communities in return to help her get close to wild gorillas which she later habituated naming one of her favorite gorilla Digit.

Dian Fossey uplifted the need to conserve gorillas which were being poached day and night that if nothing was done, mountain gorillas would become extinct. Her book gorillas in the mist compelled international conservation bodies such as the World Wildlife Fund, world conservation society and African Wildlife Foundation. These officially established mountain gorilla project that aimed at allowing few tourists to visit gorillas by paying money that would help to fund conservation activities and help local communities improve their wellbeing.
Prior to the official mountain gorilla project, Dian Fossey had waged war against poachers. Not only gorillas died due to poachers but illegal trade and infectious human diseases were also responsible for declining gorilla population. Dian worked with local people in destroying snare traps and limiting encroachment. Through rivals with poachers her gorilla Digit was also killed in 1978.

With the death of her gorilla friend Digit, Fossey also increased her anti-poaching campaigns and created the Digit fund which fetched support from the Rwandan tourism officials enforcing laws and punishing poachers. This created hatred between Dian and local poachers who were often being arrested and imprisoned. Later poachers retaliated back and murdered Fossey in 1985 and buried right at Karisoke research camp that is popular today as the Dian Fossey grave site.

With the official mountain gorilla project allowing tourists to visit gorillas, gorillas were exposed to intense human contact which resulted into spread of human infectious diseases like influenza, diarrhea killing some of the gorillas. Due to weak regulations and rules governing human contact, tourist visits could alter the natural behavior of gorillas something that Dian Fossey was not happy with.

As a result of gorillas dying from increased tourist contact, gorilla tracking was introduced with strict rules and regulations set under the brand ecotourism. Ecotourism is that tourism where tourists travel to undisturbed natural environment to appreciate nature while taking care of the wellbeing of the local communities.

Gorilla tracking is today’s most sought after wildlife encounter a reason why we should pay tribute to Dian Fossey for having pioneered gorilla conservation. The subsequent gorilla tourism projects partly built on Fossey’s efforts for instance the planting of pyrethrum farms to demarcate Volcanoes National park boundaries.

Tourists who come for gorilla tracking in Volcanoes National Park also hike to Fossey grave site and the Karisoke research centre. The park is about 2 hours drive from Kigali city to kinigi the park headquarters where all tourists gather early morning for gorilla tracking.

Actual Hik

The trek to Dh3ian Fossey grave site starts at kinigi, tourists then drive for 30 minutes to the main trailhead along the park boundary. The Rwandan Development Board guide leads tourists into the forest and it can take about 2-3 hours to reach the site depending on the fitness of the group. Views are breathtaking and wildlife encounters include buffalos, giant forest hogs, bushbucks, duikers, golden monkeys and several species of birds such as white tailed blue flycatcher.

Hiking the Dian Fossey Tomb site takes tourists through rolling green hills, plantations along the park boundary. You will encounter mammals such as buffalos, worth hogs, forest elephants and many species of birds. Standing at 3000 meters above sea level, the views of the virunga volcanoes are good for nature photographers. Visitors usually learn about the legacy of Dian Fossey that still exists today as the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.
Right at the site, visitors will see an old house where Dian was killed in 1985 and the tomb where she was buried. To commemorate her work to save gorillas, a cemetery was built where most of the gorillas that would be killed by poaches were buried next to her tomb.

The hike is quite challenging, tourists are recommended to wear solid hiking shoes, long sleeved pants and shirts, warm sweaters, rain jackets and cameras for photography. Descending from the grave site takes about 1-2 hours.
Permits to hike to the Dian Fossey grave site cost $75 per person and do not need advance booking; you will just pay for it right at kinigi Volcanoes National park headquarters.

There are other tourist activities in Volcanoes national park. For the park is small but with a diversity of wildlife as well as cultural significance. Besides mountain gorillas, there is also the critically endangered golden monkeys stay in bamboo forested slopes. Permits to track golden monkeys cost $ 100 per person.

Near volcanoes national park is the Iby’Iwacu cultural village displaying Rwandan culture with a local touch of African traditional setting of the grass thatched huts. Tourists can participate in different cultural activities such as banana beer brewing; meeting the Batwa pygmies and their unique traditions is fascinating with traditional dance performances.

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International funds the conservation and monitoring of habituated 10 gorilla families that fascinates tourists. With other several conservation organizations, mountain gorillas in Rwanda have increased to 250 individuals due to strict conservation in collaboration with Bwindi impenetrable forest national park Uganda where 400 gorillas (half of the entire mountain gorilla population) live and the virunga national park in DR Congo. Today there are 880 mountain gorillas left.

Rwanda nick named the land of a thousand hills due its undulating rolling hills is an amazing safari destination with rich ecosystems that provide home to wildlife including the rare mountain gorillas. Rwanda has emerged from scratches of the 1994 genocide to become a politically safe and economically vibrant country in East Africa.
Rwanda is famous for mountain gorillas which live in tropical forested volcanoes of the virunga massifs in Volcanoes national park in the north of the country. Mountain gorillas attract many tourists who come for gorilla tacking and later visit the Dian Fossey grave site to pay tribute to the pioneer of mountain gorilla conservation.

Hiking the Dian Fossey Tomb site takes tourists through rolling green hills, plantations along the park boundary. You will encounter mammals such as buffalos, worth hogs, forest elephants and many species of birds. Standing at 3000 meters above sea level, the views of the virunga volcanoes are good for nature photographers. Visitors usually learn about the legacy of Dian Fossey that still exists today as the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.
Right at the site, visitors will see an old house where Dian was killed in 1985 and the tomb where she was buried. To commemorate her work to save gorillas, a cemetery was built where most of the gorillas that would be killed by poaches were buried next to her tomb.