Why is gorilla trekking far more expensive than other wildlife experiences? Does this question ever cross your mind when you are told of the price of gorilla Permits? If yes, then you are not alone. Surprisingly, most tourists get puzzled and cannot comprehend why someone would pay a whole $1500 for gorilla permits in Rwanda, $600 for gorilla permits in Uganda or $400 for gorilla trekking permits in the Democratic Republic of Congo just to spend one hour with these primates. It is until you understand the reasons, that you will agree that the price of permits is not actually expensive but reasonable.
Firstly, mountain gorillas are sub-species of the Eastern gorillas and inhabit the dense jungles of only four National Parks, found in three countries-Mgahinga National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda. Currently, the World population of Mountain gorillas is at about 880 individuals, whereby around 400 mountain gorillas call Bwindi Impenetrable National Park home while the rest are distributed within the three National Parks (that are also found within the Virunga Massif). Secondly, there are only 10 habituated gorilla families within Volcanoes National Park, 8 gorilla families within Virunga National Park, only one habituated family in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and 11 habituated gorilla families within Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. With a limited number of tourists allowed to visit each gorilla group per day (8 persons), the gorilla permits sell like hot cakes. The demand for permits are high just as their prices. Therefore, the following are the reasons why gorilla trekking permits are expensive compared to other wildlife experiences;
Mountain gorillas are extraordinary and critically endangered
Where else in this World can you encounter these Primates in their natural habitats if not in only three countries-Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo? Since Mountain gorillas have no replacement, primate lovers will book for gorilla trekking safaris at all cost. This is one of the reasons why the demand for gorilla permits and gorilla trekking safaris are extremely high, hence tourists are always advised to book for permits at least 6 months in advance to avoid disappointments.
High prices of gorilla permits are a way of reducing and managing overcrowding of tourists within the Habitats of the Mountain gorillas. No matter how much the countries need the money from gorilla tourism, it is a great endangerment to the mountain gorillas when tourists throng their habitats. Just imagine if the price of permits were low, how many tourists would have visited the Parks and what impact would it have caused on the mountains gorillas?-the Vegetation cover would get destroyed (from stamping and clearing the trails) and eventually change, and frequent visitation and tourist crowds would stress the Mountain gorillas. The high price is therefore one of the ways of limiting the number of tourists who track the mountain gorillas.
To reduce frequent contact between the Mountain gorillas and Human beings
Just like other wild animals, Mountains gorillas are wild animals which don’t need to be too social and used to human being, which changes their natural being. Therefore the prices of gorilla permits have to be high so that fewer tourists get to visit them hence remain in their natural behavior. Reduced contact between the mountain gorillas and humans reduces on familiarization between these two close relatives, hence the reason for the high prices of gorilla permits.
Pay for safety and monitoring of the Mountain gorillas
Mountain gorillas are very vulnerable primates that need to be monitored 24/7 (at all times), which needs Gorilla doctors, infrastructures and projects geared towards their conservation (such as the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International), Rangers and tourism police or military among others. All these people need to be paid, because if the mountains gorillas are left unattended to, they will suffer from communicable diseases such as Ebola, Tuberculosis/Cough and Influenza, will be trafficked and trapped (with wire snares) which will affect their population. In order to reduce all the mentioned risks, the number of tourists who visit the mountain gorillas must be monitored through high gorilla permits and employing people who will keep monitoring them. All these efforts will be futile without money to undertake them.
Contribute to Community Development.
Part of the revenues from gorilla tourism is disbursed to the local communities surrounding the National Parks where the mountain gorillas are found. Several roads and schools have been constructed, clean piped water has been extended to the communities which have improved sanitation, health centers have been constructed and other community development projects have developed in the areas. It is for this reason that Rwanda Develop0ment Board increased the price of gorilla permits on 6th May 2017 from $750 to $1500 per person.
In conclusion, the prices of gorilla permits are expensive, but mountain gorilla trekking experience is incomparable and unmatched which is why gorilla trekkers are willing to visit mountain gorillas at any cost.