By Mwajuma, Twaha Adams
Celebrations to mark the world gorilla day in Uganda were held in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park on September 22, 2023. with a clean-up exercise of the villages neighbouring the park and community dwellings that are sometimes visited by Gorillas.
Highlights of the day included a clean-up exercise in the Community areas, emphasizing the connection between humans and Gorillas, a friendly football match with the community to strengthen collaboration, and a radio talk show to raise public awareness about the event and its significance to gorilla conservation.
The function celebrated under the theme, “Take action to conserve the Gorillas,” involved UWA staff, the community members around the national park, and various stakeholders.
Presiding over one of the commemorative events, the Chief Warden Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Area Guma Nelson highlighted the importance of World Gorilla Day saying gorillas are an iconic species that must be conserved at all costs. He revealed that gorilla tourism contributes considerably to UWA’s budget. He urged the communities to support gorilla conservation efforts so that they continue benefitting from the revenues that UWA gets from gorilla tourism.
Guma highlighted the benefits derived from Gorillas, such as tourism revenue shared with local communities through revenue sharing funds. In 2022, three billion Ugandan shillings were released to support community projects in the districts of Kanungu, Rubanda, and Kisoro. Because these benefits are shared with the park edge communities, it’s crucial that they play a role in protecting Gorillas.
He emphasized that Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks are home to about half of the mountain Gorilla Population in the region. Guma Nelson noted that Gorillas are the largest primate species, with four sub-species. Among these, the mountain Gorilla has seen the most success, leading to an increase in their population.
Chief Warden Guma Nelson extended his appreciation to partners like the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP), Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Trust (BMCT), the Human Gorilla Conflict Resolution Teams (HUGO), Conservation through Public Health (CTPH), the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP), the Institute of Tropical Conservation (ITFC), and the Gorilla Organization (TGO) for their support in protecting Gorillas.
He also thanked the dedicated rangers who monitor Gorillas daily, keeping tabs on the 26 habituated groups. He stressed that Gorillas are protected beyond national borders through collaborative efforts under the Greater Virunga Trans-boundary Collaboration (GVTC), ensuring their protection in Uganda, Congo, and Rwanda.
In 2006, there were only 300 Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi and 700 in the entire landscape of Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo, classifying them as critically endangered. It was crucial to take serious actions to protect them and boost their numbers. Today, there are 1,063 Gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda, and DRC, a remarkable success.
The 2018 Gorilla Census revealed 459 Gorillas, showing an increase since the last census, with 79 new births recorded, indicating that the Gorillas are thriving and their numbers are growing.