What Is Seeing A Gorilla In The Wild Really Worth?
I often find myself in conversation justifying the cost of gorilla trekking permits, and I've come to a simple answer: the fee we pay for the privilege of meeting these beautiful, intelligent, emotional and critically endangered animals is one of the few things that stands between them and extinction.
I don't think this is right, just a sad fact of the world we live in.
Of course behind that simple answer is a vastly complex process, so let's look at how the fees we pay are used in positive ways to protect gorillas as a species. Our £500 fee enables the Rwandan government to:
Protect and conserve gorilla habitat which is coveted by oil, mineral and logging companies, as well as farmers and developers.
Provide 24 hour armed protection for Rwanda's 16 remaining gorilla families against poaching
Rehabilitate and retrain former poachers as guides and guards - the tracking and hunting skills they possess are valuable when used in conservation
Raise awareness that, in the long term, gorillas are worth more to the local economy alive than dead
Set up womens craft cooperatives to give them independent income and more choices and freedom
Support farmers in sustainable practices
Install infrastructure for us tourists that also benefits local people by improving:
sanitation - clean water is more widely available
health - through both preventive campaigns and medical care
education - more children are now in school in Rwanda than ever before in the country's history, because families can better afford school bills and to free at least some of their children from working on the land.
Link markets for trading - improved road networks mean trading is easier between communities, while tourist hotels provide a ready market for local produce
Generate direct employment of builders, hotel staff, cultural artists, shops, laundries, porters etc
All of which means local people have a steadier economy, better standard of living and fewer reasons to turn to poaching as an income supplement.
Gorilla related tourism represents a significant percentage of Rwanda's GDP. Gorillas are an integral part of this country and can only be considered within the context of its community and economy.
Clockwise from top left. Logging is one of many threats to gorilla habitat. 24 hour guards protect gorilla families. Tourism helps keep traditions alive. Supporting local farmers means more children can attend school. Womens cooperatives give them more autonomy and income. Gorilla hands and other body parts are high earning prizes for poachers.
Gorilla tourism hasn't achieved its goals yet by a long way - we only need to see photographs of gorilla body parts for sale, pass the communal standpipe in Musanze, and see young local children begging for money and sweets from tourists instead of going to school to realise that.
But gorillas, and those of us who come to seek them out, represent the hopes and aspirations of a country for its future. Gorillas will only survive if Rwanda thrives. By visiting them we will help to ensure not only gorilla survival, but the future of this beautiful country and its wonderful welcoming people, who want nothing more than to put the past behind them and prosper.
So join us on safari in Rwanda for the wildlife experience of a lifetime, and to help protect gorillas throughout your lifetime!
11th - 20th September 2016
Ultimate African Wildlife Experience:
11th - 30th September 2016
Having experienced the magic of wildlife photography in Rwanda you just won't want to stop! And what better way to continue your African wildlife adventure than with the South Africa's famed Big Five plus mighty whales?
We will continue to hone our photographic techniques, and extend our creativity, during boat expeditions on the Indian Ocean and iSimangaliso Wetland Park as well as during our week at Zimanga Private Game Reserve.
In our opinion Zimanga is the best set up reserve in Southern Africa for wildlife photography. Here the creative opportunities are endless and varied, and we can craft shots on foot and using their extensive hide network that we could only dream of elsewhere.
Combine Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda and a relaxing beach extension in Zanzibar.
After several days trekking in the Virungas, relaxing on the sands, diving the pristine reefs and soaking up the exotic atmosphere of Zanzibar or the Kenyan coast could be the perfect way to round off your journey. Please contact us to find your perfect resort match.