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Approaching gorillas to close proximity, even if wearing a surgical mask, can disturb the gorillas and increase the risk of direct disease transmission to the gorillas. Approaching gorillas to close proximity may also result in behavioral changes over time.
To further protect gorillas from disease transmission, many sites are implementing the best practice guideline of having visitors and all staff wear surgical masks while within 10 meters of gorillas. Wearing the mask further reduces the risk of disease transmission to the gorillas.
Tips for glasses wearers: 1) Wear contacts for trekking if you are a contact wearer, 2) Pinch the nose piece of the mask tight to your nose to prevent fogging, 3) Pack a de-fogging product as you prepare for your trip and apply just prior to (but not during) your visit, 4) Bring a pair of binoculars, which can be a great way to see the gorillas in detail without the inconvenience of fogging.
Gorillas are genetically similar to humans and as a result are susceptible to human diseases, including common viruses and bacteria which, if transmitted to gorillas, can result in death. By self-reporting your illness to your tour operator or park staff, and not visiting gorillas, you reduce the risk of disease transmission to the gorillas.
Your feedback to your trip is a vital part of the promotion of best practice. Conservation organizations and park authorities will use this information as a monitoring system on compliance of the visitation rules, and to further strengthen compliance over time.
By turning away and covering your nose and mouth with your shirt sleeve if you need to cough or sneeze during your visit (at any distance), you are reducing the risk of direct disease transmission to the gorillas.
While the gorillas you will visit are habituated to the presence of humans, keeping to the one hour maximum time limit reduces the risk of disturbance and behavioral change to the gorillas.
By turning off the sounds and flashes (and possible distractions from an incoming call or email) on your electronic equipment, you reduce the risk of disturbance to the gorillas.
Gorillas live in limited habitat ranges which are susceptible to degradation. By ensuring that you do not leave anything in the forest you reduce the risk of disease transmission or injury to the gorillas. By not taking anything from the forest you ensure that their habitat will continue to sustain them.
Particles that you may have picked up on your previous hikes, whether in the forest or fields, pose a disease risk to the gorillas and therefore by starting each day with clean gear, including your shoes, you are reducing the risk of disease transmission to the gorillas.
To ensure that your pledge has ripple effects to a larger movement of better understanding and willingness adherence to the visitation rules, talk about them. Also, by telling your guide, you will let him or her know that they have an ally within the trekking team to promote compliance.
i. Common Name: Mountain gorilla ii. Subspecies: Gorilla beringei beringei iii. Red List Status: Critically Endangered iv. Range States: Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda v. Tourism at sites: 1. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda 2. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda 3. Virunga National Park, DRC 4. Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
Photo by:Maryke Gray
i. Common Names: Grauer’s gorilla (Eastern lowland gorilla) ii. Subspecies: Gorilla beringei graueri iii. Red List Status: Critically Endangered iv. Range states: Democratic Republic of Congo v. Tourism at sites: Kahuzi-Biega National Park
i. Common Name: Western lowland gorilla ii. Subspecies: Gorilla gorilla gorilla iii. Red List Status: Critically Endangered iv. Range States: Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon. v. Tourism at sites: 1. Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, Central African Republic 2. Loango National Park, Gabon 3. Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, Republic of Congo 4. Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Republic of Congo
Photo by: wikimedia Western Lowland Gorilla
i.Common Name: Cross River Gorilla ii.Subspecies: Gorilla gorilla diehli iii.Red List Status: Critically Endangered iv.Tourism at sites: Organized tourism to view this subspecies does not exist (although tourism in national parks where they live is possible)
Photo by: WCS Nigeria Program