MOUNTAIN GORILLA HABITUATION PROCESS

Uganda and Rwanda in particular have several mountain gorilla families habituated for purposes of tourism and research. The process of mountain gorilla habituation can take from two to three years to be completed. Habituation in Uganda is done by a group of researchers who operated under the department of Research and Monitoring which is under Uganda Wildlife Authority.

The exercise involves visiting a selected family of wild gorillas every day until it gets used to these researchers. With time, all gorilla individuals are identified in terms of their sex, age and later given names. Once researchers are confident enough that these gorillas can be visited by tourists, they conduct a mock exercise/trips for six to eight months. Once this is successful, then the habituated family is opened for tourism.

Since 1993, about 12 gorilla groups and families have been habituated for tourism and research and of these are Mubare Gorilla group which was habituated and opened for tourism in the same year. Mubare became the first gorilla group to be trekked by tourists which later paved way to other families for habituation. In Buhoma region, two more families were added on to Mubare and these are Rushegura which in most cases is closer to the Park head Quarters and then Habinyanja gorillas group.

In the nearby eastern region of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, three gorilla families are now habituated and they include Bitukura group, Oruzogo and then Kyaguriro which is meant for research. In the southern part of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, there has been lots of dynamics where the few habituated gorilla families have split up to give to new families. In total, Rushaga region has Nshongi, Mishaya, Busingye, Kahungye and Bweza while in Nkuringo, we do have one habituated gorilla family in the names of Nkuringo group.

In the Virunga Ranges that are shared between Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic republic of Congo, over 14 gorillas familes have been habituated with one gorilla family called Nyakagezi located in Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park, about 10 or so gorilla groups located in Volocanoes National Park in Rwanda where most of these gorillas are spread in popular volcanic mountains which include Mgahinga, Muhavura, Sabimyo, Karusimbi and Bisoke among others. The other familes habituated for tourism are in Democratic republic of Congo in the extensive Virunga National Park. Gorilla trekking in Virunga National park is on and off because of the political instabilities that are a characteristic of the eastern part of this vast country.

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