Trekking tourists to become wild gorilla guardians

An online awareness raising campaign has been launched in a bid to minimise the risk of disease transmission from human to gorilla during treks to see these magnificent great apes in the wild.

The close genetic relationship between humans and gorillas means that gorillas can be susceptible to many of the infectious diseases that affect people – but without the immunity humans have built up, meaning even the smallest of sniffles can have tragic consequences.

The International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) and Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN) have worked together to develop the new tool – known as Gorilla Friendly Pledge™ – that outlines ten simple things tourists can do before, during and after their gorilla visit, serving to benefit visitors and gorillas alike.

The launch of Gorilla Friendly Pledge™ coincides with peak gorilla trekking tourist season and Kwita Izina, the annual baby gorilla naming ceremony taking place in Rwanda on 1 July. By publishing the guidelines, Gorilla Friendly Pledge™ will help safeguard gorillas by minimising the risk of disease transmission and preventing illness or behavioral change as a result of exposure to people.

The new online Pledge will help gorillas and tourists alike.Credit Ally Catterick/FFI

The new online Pledge will help gorillas and tourists alike. Credit Ally Catterick/FFI

“Conscientious mountain gorilla tourism has contributed to one of the world’s true conservation success stories. By demonstrating that gorillas and their forest habitat can provide real and lasting benefits to people and economies, local communities have become their guardians,” states Anna Behm Masozera, Director of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, a coalition between Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and WWF.

“But we cannot be complacent and now is the time to better equip tourists with the tools to become gorilla guardians as well. This Pledge aims to empower tourists visiting any of the gorilla subspecies in the wild across Africa with information as to the regulations in place for gorilla tourism to make these often once-in-a-lifetime experiences even more valuable – to their experience and to the gorillas.”

The content of the Pledge originates from existing visitation rules and regulations defined by the leading experts on great apes and outlined in the IUCN’s Best Practice Guidelines for Great Ape Tourism.

Mountain gorilla family. Credit: IGCP.

Mountain gorilla family. Credit: IGCP.

“We are very excited to be part of this innovative effort to engage tourists as active participants in the conservation of one of the world’s most iconic endangered species, the mountain gorilla,” said Julie Stein, Executive Director of the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network. “We believe consumers – in this case tourists – can make a real difference to global conservation efforts. Initiatives like the Gorilla Friendly Pledge™ enable people like you and me to help safeguard mountain gorillas for future generations.”

Identity (a corporate branding and web design firm with headquarters in Uganda) and DuPuis Group (a global design innovation firm) supported the effort by creating branding and billboards, which appear along airport exit routes in Kampala, Uganda and Kigali, Rwanda, directing incoming gorilla tourists to the online Pledge and website.

The website and Pledge is currently available in English, but will be translated in the coming months to multiple other languages.

For more information or to take the Gorilla Friendly Pledge™ visit the website here