When someone talks about Virunga, all the minds drift to the hard-to find primates, Mountain gorillas of Rwanda. This place is a home to these elegant animals and it receives very many tourists each day who visit specifically to carry out gorilla trekking.
However, these interesting primates are endangered and this prompted the three countries, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda to sign a five-year joint strategic plan which will ensure maximum security for the gorillas plus promoting the activities for Virunga massif.
Also termed as the greater Virunga Trans-boundary Collaboration (GVTC), this project was signed by different officials from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN).
The officials pointed out that the countries will work together so as to improve the Tourism sector for higher revenues. The gains from this new initiative are to be shared equally among the three countries and these are expected to come as result of increased safaris.
The Executive director of Uganda Wildlife Authority, Dr Seguya said that through signing this contract, the mountain gorillas will be protected and conserved for the future. He also advised his colleagues to concentrate more on the marketing plans aimed at attracting tourists from different parts of the world to increase gorilla trekking safaris to Uganda, Rwanda and DRC. He further said that if all that was planned is implemented, mountain gorillas will increase in their number and more tourists will be attracted to come and have a look at them.
Mountain gorillas are mainly found in these three countries with Uganda having the largest number (over 400 gorillas). The closeness of these countries lays ground for the primates to move from one country to another making it difficult to tell their true origin. Therefore, there is need to ensure their security across the borders. This contract is just like the one which was signed 10 years ago which did not cater for the protection of the gorillas in the region.
The head of Tourism and Conservation Department at Rwanda Development Board, Rica Rwigamba welcomed the deal admitting that it will improve tourism in the Greater Virunga massif. He said that this project will also improve the livelihood of the local people living around the park region.
This partnership will also help to settle the disputes concerning tourism among the three countries, said Dr Cosma Wilungula (Director General of ICCN). He said that this shows that the three countries naturally have common resources, the mountain gorillas meaning that there is some unique brotherhood amongst them. The primates act as a powerful resource for these countries which cannot be found elsewhere in the world. Currently, the region is estimated to have over 800 mountain gorillas and this is a sign of an increase in the population because in 2004, the number was about 600.
Gorilla trekking safaris in these 3 countries, Uganda, Rwanda and DRC is the leading tourist attraction as many visitors come to enjoy a thrilling experience. Other tourism activities a visitor can enjoy especially on a safari to Uganda and Rwanda include; bird watching, chimpanzee tracking, hiking, cultural tours, nature walks and many more.