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Friday, December 14, 2007

Does eco-tourism disturb Gorillas?

So, here's the fact: I am going to Rwanda (Yes, we know, Luca) next week, and once there my GF's family wants to take me to see the gorillas.

Now I understand that it's nice they're making a conservation effort, so that even if the thing is expensive (500US$/person) it's better than local people shooting the primates for food then clearing the forest for coffee.

But, as far as I understand it, Gorillas are a very shy kind of primates, and may possibly be ennoyed by the continuous stream of tourist, how much concealed they are...

I'd personally go and look at other primates, Chimps in primis as they seem much more active and humans. And I don't know why, but I believe they may suffer less from the human interaction.

So I ask to the primatologists between you, should I stay or should I go? What is your take?


Luca said...

Well I think I'm called into question (I'm a primatologist, right?). I went to see gorillas in Congo (Virungas Park) last year (summer 2006): it was awesome!!! Seeing gorillas in the wild is one of the most exciting thing that ever happened to me! Unfortunately habituation in primates is a big problem but ecoturism is one of the few economic resources for the conservation of this species (or subspecies ahahahah). The great problem is to be respectful of the rules and unfortunately rangers and tourists often are not! In Virungas and Bwindi, some groups of gorillas are habituated for this purpose and I don't think they can no longer be bothered by tourists (well.. at least not too much). If you have 500$ (I was lucky it was "only" 300$) to spend, do it!!! I will never forget it!!!

Gufo said...

Thanks Luca.

I guess that, whether they like it or not, habituation to human visits will be an essential survival trait for the foreseeable future...

Paolo said...

I think promoting eco-tourism, even if it was disturbing (I don't know), can push local government to invest in protection of gorillas (and other endangered species). It's not trivial, they are precious when they're dead, too. So eco-tourism can be useful for the single animals, and not only for the species.

Gufo said...

My GF told me that at the entrance of the Rwandese park there's a signpost in local language, saying: Gorilla milk gold!

Meaning that they're more valuable alive as tourist attraction than dead.

As I wrote, I understand the need for financing the protection. We will see if I can get there to see them. The money requested is a lot and I am not Ben Affleck.