“The Silverback Kingdom” : Gorilla tourism project
Gorilla tourism benefits the conservation and the local communities:
Since the start of the gorilla tourism in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, it's been benefiting the conservation of the park thanks to the revenue from the park entry fee. This is the key source for the park management to be used for salaries, maintenance of the vehicles, buildings, equipment etc. Without this revenue it becomes difficult to protect the park and the gorillas. Also the gorilla tourism generates associated business opportunities and brings many kinds of incomes to the local communities. If the local communities can recognize the benefit generated from the gorillas, it will bring about a strong motivation for the communities to make efforts to protect the park and the gorillas.
Therefore the gorilla tourism is one important factor to make the conservation effort successful and we need to promote it in a sustainable way while educating both the visitors and the local people.
The launch of the "The Silverback Kingdom" by the POPOF-I:
Apart from other projects concerning education, afforestation, job training, livestock breeding, etc. the POPOF-I launches a gorilla tourism project “The Silverback Kingdom”in January 2010. The objective of this project is to promote the gorilla tourism, create employment and provide opportunities of interactions to the local people and visitors. The POPOF-I staff will receive the visitors at the entry point, guide them to a hotel of their choice and to the KBNP, too.
We can organize some recreations and study visits to learn more about the local communities. After the gorilla visit in the park visitors can pay a visit to the agroforestry schools of the POPOF-I in Miti and have interaction with the pupils. Visitors can also plant trees together with the pupils at the school farm, which will be a wonderful experience.
Visitors can enjoy local foods and dance with the traditional dancers. They can also visit former wood collectors who has now became tailors through the POPOF-I project in the village of Muyange. Also visitors can meet former poachers who are now wood carvers in the village of Miti.
All the sales profit out of the Silverback Kingdom project will be used as a vital fund for other POPOF-I projects. Visiting the eastern lowland gorillas will contribute to the involvement of the communities around the KBNP for the sustainable development and nature conservation.
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The group of Cimanuka started with two members in 2002 enriched his group from the members he caught from the interactions with other members. As of May 2011, he is a leader of 37 members that consist of 17 adult females, 19 youngs and himself.
When Mugaruka was three years old in 1990, he lost his right hand because he got caught in a snare. The injury didn't seem to bother him much in forming his own group and he used to be a leader of 17 members until 2006. But since then he has lost strength in many interactions with Cimanuka who eventually took over the members of his group.
How we track the gorillas:
From the Tchivanga station of the Park, you will be accompanied by a guide and his team of trackers. You will move to the nearest entry point to the forest by a vehicle. The eastern lowland gorillas in the highland sector of the KBNP range from the altitude of 2,000m (the secondary forest) up to 2,600m (the bamboo forest).
The location of the gorillas depends on the foods availability in different types of forests. From mid October to the end of August the tracking duration can vary between 20 minutes and 2 hours. From the end of August to the middle of October it can take 3 hours or even longer to find the gorillas. In any case you can always reach the gorillas.
In the secondary forest where they range most of the year, the ground is bushy and you might only see just a few members of a group while other members are sitting behind the bush. But it's also possible that you see most of the group members.
To minimize the human impact we can watch the gorillas for one hour only.
Rules for gorilla visit:
There are some important and strict rules to protect the gorillas from human impact during the gorilla tracking:
- Anyone under the age of 15 is not allowed to visit the gorillas.
- Anyone with contagious disease such as flu and diarrhea is not allowed to visit the gorillas.
- Minimize noise and speak quietly.
- Always walk and stay in the group.
- Keep a distance of 7 meters between you and the gorillas.
- Do not point fingers at the gorillas.
- You cannot take photos with a flashlight.
- In case you can't help sneezing or coughing, turn away from the gorillas and cover your mouth or nose.
- Do not run when a gorilla comes close you. Carefully follow instructions of the guide.
- Do not leave any rubbish.
- There is no toilet in the forest. In case of urgency, you need to bury human faces in a deep hole. Follow instructions of the guide.
*The park entrance fee for the gorilla tracking is USD 400.- per person per day.
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