As the leader of the Nkuringo mountain gorilla family in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Rafiki was the gentle giant who protected his family of 17. He was speared and killed in an act of self-defense after accosting four poachers. They were in the park illegally to hunt bush pig, according to the official statement released on June 12, 2020 by the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Fewer than 900 mountain gorillas exist today.
Mountain gorillas remain exceedingly endangered and live in only one area—the Virunga Heartland. This landscape spans the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Uganda and is often threatened by civil unrest and violence. As a result, gorillas face threats from not only poaching, habitat loss, and fractured populations, but also from residual upheaval from human conflicts.
Uganda has a wide range of tourism assets.
Uganda boasts a wealth of biodiversity that could easily be used for tourism purposes. Uganda’s economy today relies primarily on commodities produced through small-scale agriculture, however. Despite the economic potential of tourism in Uganda’s parks and protected areas, many of the rural communities that surround those natural areas lack the capacity and resources to benefit from tourism.
Wildlife permits are too expensive for native Rwandans.
Despite living so close to the magnificent mountain gorilla, many Rwandans lack the ability to fully engage with and experience the world around them. The high price of a permit (US$35, now US$50) prevents many from being able to see the mountain gorillas that live exclusively in Central Africa. As a result, only tourists see the majesty of local protected areas.
Mountain gorillas are in danger of extinction.
In the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda, tourists pay top dollar for the privilege of tracking mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas are a majestic but critically endangered species that are threatened by poaching, habitat loss, and human-wildlife conflict. When local communities benefit from this tourism, however, they have more incentive to protect gorillas and other wildlife.
Civil war has led to poverty and environmental degradation.
Following years of social turmoil and civil war, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was left without a solid infrastructure and faced an impending environmental crisis. Due to conflict, farmers along the banks of the Congo and Maringa Rivers had no way to sell their crops. As a result, many took to hunting bushmeat or practicing slash-and-burn agriculture to make a living, subsequently destroying much of the ecosystem and leaving people without a sustainable means of income.
Mountain gorillas are still under threat.
Even though the mountain gorilla population in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is growing, the species remains endangered. Poaching, habitat loss, and human–wildlife conflict threaten to halt the progress of this species.
Gorilla lodge makes tourism a win–win.
Officially opened in the spring of 2008, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge is located just outside the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
All of Africa’s great ape species are either endangered or critically endangered.
Africa is home to four of the world’s five great apes: the bonobo, chimpanzee, and two species of gorilla—the eastern and western. Unfortunately, all of these apes are facing extinction due to a number of threats, including habitat destruction and fragmentation, poaching, the risk of disease transfer from humans, and the pet trade.
African Wildlife Foundation in partnership with the Government of Rwanda and Rwanda Development Board has expanded Africa’s oldest park for the first time in 30 years.
The 27.8-hectare of donated land is adjacent to Volcanoes National Park and is the narrowest part of the park in an area where endangered mountain gorillas often wander across the park boundary, which increases the risk of human-gorilla conflict and the danger of exposure to deadly disease.