Wednesday, January 27, 2010
By Geoffrey Baluku
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has in the past few months been habituating another group of Mountain Gorillas (Bikingi) for tourism. This arose from an earlier public outcry where industry stake holders questioned the rationale of UWA awarding monopoly rights of Nkuringo gorillas to a private investor under the disguise of doing it for the local community.
Bikingi group which is in the southern sector of Bwindi Forest National Park will be the 8th group to be habituated. Other groups include Nshongi that was officially opened for Tourism in September 2009, Bitukura Group in Ruhija, Nkuringo, Mubare, Habinyanja, Rushegura and Kyaguriro that is currently being used for research. The eight habituated gorilla groups constitute about 25% of the total gorilla population in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Gorilla tracking contributes over 60 % of tourism revenue to the coffers of the Ugandan government.
According to researchers, "overall, the gorilla population has been increasing at an approximate annual growth rate of 1%, which is indicative of a healthy population".
The director of conservation, Sam Mwandha, said, “It is too early to say when they will be able to accept human presence for the Bikingi group. We will probably be able to establish this in the next few months.”
The total Mountain Gorilla population in the whole world is estimated to be about 760 with about 340 in the jungles of Bwindi Forest as the rest straddle through Mgahinga, Rwanda and DR Congo.