Mountain Gorilla Habituation is a process of training mountain gorillas to become used to tourists. This process takes a period of three to four years. Usually trained park rangers from the Uganda Wildlife Authority are in charge. Park rangers usually spend a short period of time with the gorillas every day, keep a certain distance to see if they are used to their cousin hence ready for tourists to visit them.
The Mountain Gorilla Habituation Experience in Uganda
As of Dec 2017, 12 gorilla families have been habituated for gorilla trekking activity including Nkuringo, Bweza, Kahungye and Nshoji Gorilla groups which lie on the park’s southwestern boundary, Mubare, Habinyanja, Rushegura which are found on the park’s northern boundary, Far East at Ruhija are the Bitukura, Oruzogo and Kyaguriro gorilla families. Mountain Gorilla Habituation process gives travellers the opportunity to understand the mountain Gorillas behaviors and how they live in their natural habitat.
The cost for Mountain Gorilla Habituation in Uganda is 1500 USD and only 4 visitors per group are allowed per day to participate in the Gorilla Habituation Experience while 8 visitors per group are allowed to trek mountain gorillas every day at $600 USD. Furthermore, given that they are so profitable, every year more Gorilla groups undergo the habituation procedure. The more Gorilla groups are available for gorilla tourism, the more tourists are allowed to come to Uganda.
Mountain Gorilla Habituation for research or tourism requires regular, continuous and close human presence near the gorillas in their natural habitat. Researchers usually spend several hours at a time with Gorilla groups, and therefore represent a similar degree of exposure to gorillas as tourists (in person-hours), even though they may not visit gorillas as often as tourists. In addition, occasional emergency veterinary interventions are inevitable and imply staff getting in direct contact with gorillas through clothes, hair and other fomites, despite the required use of masks and gloves, thus representing an acute additional source of exposure for Gorilla groups.
Gorillas are one of the few big wild species that can be seen in the wild with no aid of cars or other instrument to protect you, and for this reason the tracking offers a unique, quasi-primordial experience.
What is important to highlight is that gorillas are majestic, big wild animals that let you be in their presence, but at the same time they have strong agency in the equation of gorilla tourism, inasmuch as they are the ones who decide the limits and the conditions.