Globally COVID-19 has paralyzed the lives of people and businesses around the world. Due to this pandemic situation, most stakeholders are concerned about the tourism sector which is most times visited by international travelers for leisure and research purposes.
Despite the fact that most travelers come from countries that are highly affected by the COVID-19, it caused fear to all tourism sectors in that if by mistake some of the travelers are affected by the virus its possible they might spread it to mountain gorillas in the jungle thus causing the closure of the national parks. Some of the majority travelers are known to be coming from USA, Italy, United Kingdom, Germany, France and Australia, countries that are already affected by the virus.
Government, researchers and conservation organizations took the drastic measures and guidelines to protect the mountain gorillas from being affected by the COVID-19. Some of these authorizes are Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and Dian Fossey Fund who have ensured that gorillas and other wildlife species remain safe and protected from corona virus.
Some of the drastic measures taken include;
The staff members in the parks
All Wildlife staff members like rangers, porters, trackers and vets are restricted from going in the national parks without washing their hands, wearing masks and gloves to protect gorillas from coronavirus.
The normal time used to be spent with gorillas by the wildlife staff members in the national park is limited to safe guard the lives of mountain gorillas which are known to be sharing DNA with humans thus the control of the spread of disease from humans to animals.
Rangers, vets ,trackers and porters are strictly briefed to keep a long distance from animals in the park during their daily check up on animals in the jungle especially mountain gorillas and chimpanzees tracking.
Other conservation organizations like Dian Fossey Fund also emphasized on procedures about the game rangers, trackers and vets. These include,
Staff members must have daily checkup before setting off to the jungle to monitor the mountain gorillas and chimpanzee tracking. This checkup helps the illed game rangers to be isolated from others and these safe guards the great apes from being affected since they are known to be 98% human.
Community engagement programs by the organization have also been temporarily suspended to reduce the risk of exposure of the virus which is known to be spreading fast in gathering places. These programs were formed to sensitize the local people about the mountain gorillas and chimpanzees which attract tourists who bring in foreign income and this teaching also stops them from poaching. Since COVID-19 spreads fast in gatherings, these programs were suspended for further notes.
Travellers were told to either postpone their tour or else to be quarantined for fourteen days after the arrival in the country. This was done not only to safe guard the lives of the animals but also the lives of people since the virus spreads so fast. This rule was put to stop the importation of the virus from countries like USA, Italy, United Kingdom, Germany, France and Australia where it was highly spread.
All gorilla tracking safaris, chimpanzee trekking holidays, and trips to track golden monkeys among other primates will therefore be momentarily put on hold until the end of April.
Before the coming of COVID-19, the national parks with mountain gorillas like Bwindi Impenetrable national, Mgahinga National Park, Virunga National Park and Volcanoes National Park had rules and regulations to follow during the tracking. These include
- Children with 15 years and above are allowed to trek and elderly are given support from porters who carry him or her to the jungle to track mountain gorillas.
- Tracking number of visitors is limited to 8 members but habituated mountain gorillas, the number is limited to four visitors and they are given four hours visit. The gorilla permits of habituated gorillas cost $1500 and others cost $600 in Uganda.
- Visitors are briefed to keep together during the hiking in the jungle with game rangers to protect them from being attacked by the wild animals.
- Visitors are told to lower their voices when they are with mountain gorillas in order to keep the calm environment for the great apes.
- Throwing the unwanted food stuffs in the jungle is not allowed because mountain gorillas might be harmed.
- It is a must for visitors to access permits when touring gorillas in Rwanda where the permit cost $1500, Uganda gorilla permits cost $600 and in Congo the permit cost $450 making it the cheapest place to visit although it is politically unstable thus opening up doors for Uganda which is cheaper than Rwanda. It is advisable to book in time for about 6 months before the travel to ensure that visitors get unforgettable tour safaris in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo.
- Cameras are allowed but on a condition of removing flashlights which may disturb the attention of mountain gorillas thinking of them as their enemies.
- Visitors with cough or flue are isolated from tracking because there are high chances of mountain gorillas to be affected since their DNA is almost the same with that of human beings.