The Uganda Wildlife Authority has introduced a new mountain gorilla habituation experience for visitors of the Ruhija sector in Bwindi National Park. Gorilla habituation in Rushaga is open for two gorilla groups - the Bushaho Group and the Biking Group with a maximum of four people allowed to go trekking with trained rangers and researchers at a time.
This makes the number of available habituation permits eight per day. Mountain gorilla habituation costs $1,500 per gorilla permit, as it provides the visitor with up to four hours with the gorillas and researchers while they are studied and trained.
Trips to visit gorillas in Africa take place in the Central and East African Countries of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Congo. In recent years, the number of mountain gorillas living in the wild is estimated at 1,000 individual gorillas, all of which reside in Africa's tropical mountainous rainforest regions.
Mountain gorillas are vegetarians and they feed on plants within the forest such as leaves, wild fruits, and bamboo shoots. Gorillas have caught the eye of travelers due to their intriguing nature and very close relation to humans (sharing a 98% match in DNA!).
The Meaning of Gorilla Habituation
Gorilla habituation is a gorilla learning process to partially tame gorillas so that they get used to visits from human beings without feeling threatened in their natural environment. The habituation process is conducted by trained researchers that have specialized skills in gorilla behavior.
The gorilla habituation process is very slow and takes years of researchers coming face to face with gorillas each day to study their response to human presence. During this taming process, the gorillas learn to continue their daily activities even in the presence of humans, and researchers also give each gorilla a name. Once the gorilla safari is complete and researchers feel that the gorillas are ready, a group of two to four people is sent into the forest to test whether the gorillas are actually ready for large scale human interaction, after which the group is incorporated into the mainstream trekking system.
A Habituation Experience Vs Gorilla Trekking
So far gorilla habituation safaris are only offered in Bwindi National Park in Uganda and not in any other gorilla trekking destination. Hence, visitors come from all over the world into Uganda to Bwindi National Park to participate in gorilla habituation.
Normal trekking with gorillas allows for up to one hour with a gorilla group whilst gorillas habituation allows for four hours with the gorillas. This is a great opportunity for TV broadcasters since it provides them with enough time to capture footage with the gorillas.
For a normal trekking experience, groups of eight are allowed. For a habituation experience, only groups of four are permitted.