New gorilla family ready to visit in Uganda

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2000:

KAMPALA, Uganda
––Uganda Wildlife Authority
tourism manager Lilian Ajarova
on September 19 announced that
a fourth family of mountain gorillas
living in the Bwindi Impenetrable
Forest National Park has
nearly completed two years of
habituation to humans, and will
soon be ready for viewing.
This will boost Ugandan
gorilla tourism revenue by
$50,000 a month, Ajarova estimated.
Uganda allows tourists to
visit mountain gorilla families
only in escorted groups of six,
and has been able to accommodate
only 18 visitors per day.


The extra gorilla viewing
opportunities will be a boon
to the UWA, which derives 70%
of its budget from tourism, and
about 75% of that from gorillawatchers.
But introducing the
fourth gorilla family to tourists
was delayed for about a month
while an American veterinary
team treated the gorillas for scabies,
UWA director Robbie
Robinson said.
Global concern about
the risk of disease transmission
among humans and great apes
was raised in September by the
publication of an article in the
journal Science about an outbreak
of measles several years ago that
killed six gorillas in Rwanda.
The International Journal of
P r i m a t o l o g y s i m u l t a n e o u s l y
reported on an outbreak of a
human form of pneumonia that
killed eight chimpanzees at
Gombe Park in Tanzania.
Also simultaneously,
the British Royal Society hosted a
conference in London to discuss
the means by which AIDS spread
from chimps to humans probably
40 to 50 years ago.
“There is no doubt that
AIDS is devastating and has
already killed millions,” Liverpool
University primatologist
Robin Dunbar told L o n d o n
O b s e r v e r science editor Robin
McKie. “Yet it does not threaten
Homo sapiens with extinction.
By contrast, illnesses like flu,
pneumonia, and measles, which
we pass on to chimps, gorillas,
and other apes, threaten to tip
some populations into oblivion.”
Previous Ugandan
efforts to increase ecotourism
have been repeatedly disrupted by
violence spilling into the Bwinti
Impenetrable Forest from neighboring
Rwanda. Bwindi was
occupied by Rwandan troops and
refugees in both 1990 and 1994;
four tourists and seven Congolese
guides were kidnapped in August
1998, among whom three of the
four tourists are still missing and
presumed dead; and in March
1999 a raiding Hutu tribal militia
killed eight visitors plus four
Ugandan wildlife guards.
Another 24 visitors were kidnapped
in that raid, but were later
released.
Warfare still threatens
mountain gorillas, of whom barely
400 remain, and may be an
even more urgent threat to chimpanzees,
Ugandan Wildlife
Education Centre consultant
Wilhelm Moeller warned on
September 7.
“Refugees don’t leave
their traditions and habits
behind,” Moeller told the
Kampala New Vision n e w s p a p e r
and the South Africa Press
Agency. “Eating bush meat is
one of them. It has never happened
before that chimpanzees
and gorillas are consumed in
Uganda,” Moeller said, “but a
lot of Congolese are in western
Uganda, and many are not in
refugee camps, but in areas that
are chimpanzee habitat. There is
fear that poaching is increasing as
people hunt the primates and sell
the meat to the refugees, and we
fear that the primate meat-eating
habit might spread to Uganda.”
Moeller spoke soon
after two men found in possession
of chimp meat near the western
Ugandan town of Kasese were
imprisoned for 18 months apiece.
An estimated 3,000
chimps and 400 mountain gorillas
live in western Uganda, along the
Rwandan and Congolese borders.
On the Congolese side,
Virunga National Park tourism
officer Jobogo Minindi told the
mid-September International
Rangers Federation conference in
Kruger National Park, south
Africa, rebel guerillas are using
gorilla reserves and abandoned
tourist lodges as base camps.
“Minindi told the conference,
attended by 340 rangers
from 54 countries, that his conservation
staff had no control over
the distribution of firearms, and
worked without electricity,
radios, helicopters, or backup
against heavily armed rebels and
soldiers, who poach at will,”
reported Justin Arenstein of the
African Eye News Service.
“Minindi braved bullets
to attend the conference,” said
International Fund for Animal
Welfare campaigns coordinator
Jason Bell. IFAW paid the costs
of attending for Minindi and 34
other rangers, from African
nations also including Ethiopia,
Egypt, Guinea, Mozambique,
and Cameroon

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