Just like any precious jewel that has to be handled with utmost care, mountain gorillas are vulnerable animals that need to be protected. These gentle giants are critically endangered with their numbers being less than 1000 individuals (there are approximately 900 of them left in the whole World) and inhabit the dense jungles of only four National Parks-Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable National Parks in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Situated in the North-western corner of Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park is a haven to over 380 of these critically endangered Apes, habituated into 10 wonderful families that include Hirwa, Ugenda, Umubano, Kwitonda, Karisimbi (Susa B), Susa A, Sabinyo, Agashya/Group 13, Bwenge and Amahoro groups. Due to the exceptionality of the adventure, you will be required to carry some items and dress in a particular way which includes wearing long sleeved shirts, long trousers, strong waterproof hiking boots, long socks, carrying a backpack with enough drinking water and packed lunch and a walking stick among others. However, due to the vulnerability of these primates, several set guidelines have to be followed by gorilla trekkers during this jaw-dropping adventure and these include;

Important guidelines to follow before heading for Gorilla Trekking

Follow the following rules prior to embarking for gorilla trekking;

Make sure you are free from human diseases such as cold, cough, influenza or flu because mountain gorillas are 98.2% related to humans hence susceptible to the mentioned diseases.

You should be of age (at least 15 years and above) to be allowed to track mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park

Make sure that your hands are thoroughly washed with clean water and soap before you venture into the jungles of Volcanoes National Park in search of these critically endangered primates, as a way of getting rid of any possible germs.

Make sure you are not more than 8 individuals visiting a particular habituated gorilla family. It’s not as if Park ranger don’t group trekkers and limit the number, this is done but sometimes tourists wish to join their friends or family members in other groups hence exceeding the limit. Therefore, make sure that you team doesn’t have more than the recommended number of trekkers to avoid straining/stressing the gorilla group.

During the process of gorilla trekking/or on your way to the Giant Apes

Avoid throwing rubbish in the Park hence always practice the rule of “Pack it in, pack it out” so as to keep the environment clean and green for other tourists who come after you.

Maintain low voices because you may either startle the mountain gorillas or even other interesting wildlife and bird species within the Park.

Do not split within the National Park

Guidelines to follow when with the gentle giants

This is the most critical part of gorilla trekking with guidelines that include;

Maintain a minimum distance of 7 meters away from these primates to avoid any possibility of spreading germs and diseases.

The maximum accepted time to spend with a gorilla family is strictly one hour because more time increases pressure leading to nervousness or agitation.

Do not touch the Mountain gorillas to prevent any chances of spreading diseases from humans to them or vice versa and are also dangerous due to the fact that they are wild animals much as are habituated to the presence of visitors.

Avoid direct eye contact because these primates interpret it as confrontation and when charged and aggressive, turn your eyes away from them as a way of submission. It is not advisable to run away because that is actually rubbing salt into the wounds.

Also, avoid making noise when with the mountain gorilla family but that doesn’t mean that you can’t ask the ranger guide questions.

If you get the urge to cough or sneeze, turn your mouth away from the mountain gorillas and use a handkerchief to prevent any chances of spreading germs to the already critically endangered animals.

Avoid eating or drinking in the presence of the Giant Apes because food droplets also increase chances of transmitting diseases to the primates.

Flash cameras for photography are totally prohibited during gorilla trekking because it frightens the mountain gorillas.

Avoid swift and sudden movements because it also agitates the mountain gorillas thus sometimes lead to aggressiveness.

Overall Health guidelines

One important thing to always note is that mountain gorillas are 98.2% related to mankind making then vulnerable to a lot of human diseases such as measles, Ebola, cough and cold, flue, Tuberculosis and influenza. Therefore, stringent health guidelines are set and must be followed by all tourists intending to have unforgettable encounter with these gentle giants and these include;

Maintain a distance of 7 meters away from the mountain gorillas to prevent possible chances of transmitting diseases to these animals and vice versa. Similarly, do not touch these primates.

Respect the set time limit to spend with the mountain gorillas because it avoids straining them and prevents transmission of diseases.

Only 8 tourists are allowed to visit a gorilla family per day.

There are no toilets in the middle of Volcanoes National Park and if you get the urge to ease yourself (say to defecate) in the middle of the jungles, speak to one of the ranger guides who will dig a hole of around 30 centimeters deep using a panga, and then cover it immediately.

If you realize you are feeling sick before tracking, speak to a ranger and your money will be refunded or the visit to the mountain gorillas rescheduled. If you get the sudden urge to cough or sneeze, turn your mouth away and use a handkerchief to avoid spreading germs.

Apply the principle of pack it in; pack it out when it comes to waste disposal (for instance food rappers) because foreign objects harbor germs, contaminants and diseases that in turn affect these vulnerable animals.

Do not eat, drink or smoke in the presence of the mountain gorillas to avoid spreading germs or causing any possible diseases. Remember that food particles can be harbors for a number of diseases.

In conclusion, Mountain gorillas are critically endangered animals with less than 1000 of them left hence strict guidelines have to be followed during tracking and these include maintaining a minimum distance of 7 meters away from them, avoid visiting the giant apes if you are suffering from cough, flue and tuberculosis, not eating or drinking in their presence and spend strictly one hour interacting and taking photographs after sighting them.

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