The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has increased the number of gorilla families for tracking, following what they call overwhelming demand for gorilla permits during the past three months.
The authority said in a statement yesterday that have so far successful habituated two new families, bring the total number of gorilla families to 17 families.
“We have increased the number of gorilla families for tracking from 15 to 17, following the successful habituation of Katwe group in Buhoma and Christmas group in Nkuringo” The statement read.
Dr. Robert Bitariho, Director of institute of Tropical Forest Conservation (ITFC), an ecological research institute of Mbarara University of Science and Technology based in Ruhija, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park says that habituation is a process of getting gorillas used to the presence of humans.
“It involves a team of about six to eight people encountering the wild group as it charges at the humans. The process takes about two years for the gorillas to get used to humans”.
Due to the risks associated with handling cash, UWA says it has put in place additional measures requiring tour operators to pay at the reservations office in Kampala rather than carrying cash and making on-spot reservations.
“This will be authorized in limited and exceptional cases. More importantly is the possibility of finding permits are sold out putting the park office under pressure to provide permits to visitors who have traveled long distances to track the mountain gorillas”.
In some cases, UWA says, some tour operators from across the border in Rwanda have resorted to obtaining permits at US$600 in Uganda following the hiking of the fees by the Rwanda Development Board to US$1,500 last year.
There are just over 800 gorillas remaining in the wild in the Virunga mastiff and Bwindi impenetrable Forest National Park within Rwanda, Uganda, and the volatile Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).