This is a good article about mountain gorilla tourism and there is no doubt that responsible gorilla tourism has helped the mountain gorilla. It is probably one of the most successful wildlife conservation tourism projects seen around the world. However, myself and other experts do not believe responsible tourism is a pancea for great ape conservation and revenue generation. I confirmed with my Uganda Wildlife Authority colleagues that the 80% statistic is high.
“Gorilla trekking has not only become a vital conservation fund-raising tool—in Uganda, gorilla tourism contributes approximately 80% of the national wildlife authority’s overall budget, thereby financing the bulk of wildlife and habitat conservation across the country as a whole—but it has also turned the gorillas into a valuable commodity prized by local communities and government alike.”
When I worked in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda in 2011 I was informed tourism provided about half the country’s revenue and that over half of that was direct gorilla tracking fees. This probably did not include indirect tourism costs such as people going to see gorillas stopping at other sites along the way. In addition, gorilla permits have risen from 500 USD to 750 USD. To date colleagues of mine believe the statistic is more around 50%.
Is responsible tourism the key to saving the mountain gorilla? It is vital given the circumstances we have put these animals in but it must be managed effectively and continually re-evaluated. And there must be a number of parties, strategies, education programs and projects working concurrently with responsible tourism to safeguard the future of the mountain gorilla.