Track Record

Come face to face with mountain gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda and contribute to anti-poaching efforts along the way.

BY JEN MURPHY

The daily presence of trackers, porters, guides, and guests helps scare off potential poachers.

There are few wildlife encounters as surreal and spine tingling as coming face to face with a mountain gorilla. Future generations, however, may never get the chance to observe these gentle giants in the wild. The gorilla has endured years of war, poaching, habitat destruction, and disease—threats so severe that it was once thought the species might be extinct by the end of the 20th century. In 1981, the population hit a record low of fewer than 300 remaining mountain gorillas. Dr. Dian Fossey dedicated most of her life to studying, habituating, and protecting the mountain gorillas in Central Africa. Her legacy lives on through the work of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, which has helped the critically endangered species slowly bounce back. Thanks to conservation efforts between governments, communities, and NGOs like the Dian Fossey Fund, the population has grown to just over 1,000 at last count in 2018.

The largest living primate, gorillas are spread across much of the densely forested and mountainous areas of Central Africa. More than half of the gorilla population lives in the Virunga Mountains, a volcanic range that spans Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda. The remainder can be found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. Tourism in these regions has proved to be one of the most effective means of eliminating poaching. The daily presence of trackers, porters, guides, and guests helps scare off potential poachers. It also provides poachers an alternative form of income.

Swain Destinations supports the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International as well as Visit Rwanda, two agencies who work tirelessly to protect the mountain gorillas. When Swain Destinations arranges gorilla trekking itineraries in Rwanda or Uganda, they can hire a porter to assist the tracker. In doing so, they’re providing jobs to ex-poachers.

The extraordinary journeys provide a once-in-a-lifetime chance to observe the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat while staying in some of Africa’s top lodges, like the new Bisate from Wilderness Safaris. In Uganda, guests spend two days trekking the huge primeval forest in the depths of Bwindi National Park in search of mountain gorillas as well as chimpanzees. In Rwanda, travelers spend two days tracking a troop of gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. Only eight tracking permits are issued per troop per day. Hikes up to their locations can last 30 minutes to more than four hours, reaching an altitude of between 8,200 and 13,120 feet. Once groups encounter their assigned troop, they have one hour in their company. Most would agree—it’s an hour they’ll never forget.

By the Numbers

1,000

Approximate number of mountain gorillas living in the wild.

96

Gorilla tracking permits issued per day in Rwanda.

440

Average weight in pounds of an adult male mountain gorilla.

10

Percent of revenue from Rwanda’s permits channeled towards local communities.

2

Populations of gorillas left in the world, split between the Virunga Mountains and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

0

Number of gorillas poached in Rwanda as of 2018.


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Cover Photo: Baby Mountain Gorilla in Uganda.


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