African Mountain Gorillas

There can be few experiences in the world more memorable and magical than an encounter with mountain gorillas. There are thoughts to be around only 880 mountain gorillas(Gorilla gorilla beringei) left in the world all found in the small area of East Africa across the boarder of Uganda, Rwanda and democratic republic of Congo(Zaire). Relationship between human and gorillas have not always been fraternal. For centuries, gorillas were considered fearsome and aggressive, and it was only this century that we learned they are gentle and vegetarian.

The first European to encounter the mountain gorillas was a German officer, Oscar Von Beringe, in 1902. hunting the gorillas was a popular activity until one hunter, Carl Akeley decided some thing must be done to preserve the population of these splendid creatures and in 1925 he persuade the Belgian government to create Africa’s first protected area, Albert national park now(virunga national park). But over the years agriculture and administrative division reduced the size of this protected area, and poaching reduced the number of gorillas.

The first scientific study of the mountain gorillas in the Virunga volcanoes area was conducted by George Schaller in 1959, his work was continued by Dian Fosy from 1967 and her story has been made the subject of a film, Gorillas in the Mist, however she was killed by the said poachers whom she had made her self unpopular although she studied the behaviors of these giant primate on earth for a bout a period of over 18 years and through her works she made Rwanda very popular for gorilla trekking safaris and many travelers leave their beautiful offices and homes to come and spend at least 1-2 days in the wild with mountain gorillas and now Rwanda is regarded the best gorilla safari destination in the world just because of the effort of those people who habituated these species which were considered aggressive.

Currently, hundreds of tour operators organize many gorilla trekking safaris to Volcanoes national park, located 120 minutes drive from the capital city Kigali, or Kigali International Airport. There are currently over 10 gorilla groups habituated for tourism purposes. Gorilla groups in Rwanda include Susa, Karisimbi, Ugenda, Umubano, Sabyinyo, Group 13, Hirwa, etc. Gorilla trekking in Uganda on the other hand takes place in Bwindi Impenetrable forest and Mgahinga National Parks. Bwindi National Park has over 12 gorilla groups habituated for tourism some of which include Mubare, Habinyanja, Rushegura, Nsongi, Nkuringo, Mishaya, Oruzogo, Kyaguriro, Bitukura, Kahunjye, Businjye, etc. Mgahinga Forest has only one gorilla group known as Nyakagezi but some times it crosses the border to DR Congo and Rwanda.