International Lifestyle Magazine Issue 52 - Page 9

Also understand that your visit helps to demonstrate to the locals that their is a business, and money to made, from tourism rather than from killing these beautiful animals and turning them into trinkets for tourists. We have a responsibility as a civilised race to ensure the protection of these animals not just for us but for future generations. The mountain gorilla is the world’s most endangered ape and only found in small portions of protected forests in southwestern Uganda, northwestern Rwanda and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The forests are also home to many wonderful birds, primates, large mammals, reptiles, insects and plants. The mountain gorillas are divided into two populations. 2003 figures estimate the total population to be about 706 individuals. One population of about 320 is found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwestern Uganda, covering 330 km², and the other 386 in the Virunga Volcano Range (covering 3 National Parks in 3 countries: Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in the Congo (DRC). Gorilla tracking (gorilla trekking) is an intense experience that can take up to 6 hours. The guide leads you through the gorilla’s world, explaining aspects of their ecology and behavior along the way. To fully appreciate their beauty you need to see them living in their family groups, within their own environments, as they should be. Mountain Gorillas share up to 98% of their DNA with us. They live in close family groups, usually led by one dominant silverback male. They are primarily vegetarian and around 85% of their diet is composed of leaves, shoots and stems. They also eat small amounts of wood, roots, flowers and fruit, and occasionally larvae, snails and ants. So what has gone wrong, why are these animals near extinction? The mountain gorilla has endured a combination of hunting, regional conflict, destruction of its forest habitat, and capture for the illegal pet trade. These factors have led to a dramatic decline in gorilla numbers, although efforts by the government, conservation organisations and local people are now leading to a small, gradual increase in numbers. Loss of habitat is still a great threat. The two areas where the mountain gorillas survive are virtual islands in one of the most densely populated regions of Africa. Every square kilometre contains an average of over 400 people. Over 90% of the population practice subsistence farming. Over 95% of these people rely on firewood, often harvested unsustainably, as their main energy supply.