What you need to know:
- The vow. The Gorilla Pledge is key in safeguarding the future of gorillas and preserving these magnificent creatures for generations to come, writes Victoria Hilda Namulwana.
Gorillas world over have been facing severe threats to their survival due to habitat loss, poaching and climate change.
However, since its inception in 1991, the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) has been at the forefront of gorilla conservation efforts in Uganda, Rwanda, and the DR Congo (DRC). Born as a coalition between Conservation International, Fauna and Flora International and the World Wildlife Fund, the IGCP has made significant strides in protecting these majestic creatures where their status shifted from critically endangered to endangered according to IUCN while simultaneously uplifting local communities.
“The IGCP’s primary objective is to safeguard gorilla populations by addressing key challenges such as habitat destruction and poaching. Through strategic partnerships with local communities, government agencies, and other conservation organisations, the IGCP implements a multi-faceted approach to ensure the long-term survival of gorillas,” Henry Mutabazi, the IGCP country coordinator says.
One of the cornerstones of the programme is the establishment and management of protected areas, including Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda, Volcanos National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in DR Congo where gorillas can thrive undisturbed.
“By collaborating with local authorities and promoting sustainable land-use practices, the IGCP helps reduce deforestation and encroachment on gorilla habitats, providing a safe haven for these endangered species,” Mutabazi says.
The success of gorilla conservation depends on the support and active participation of local communities. This programme employs an inclusive approach that directly involves communities in decision-making processes and benefits them economically.
“Through various initiatives, the IGCP helps communities develop alternative livelihoods, such as sustainable agriculture, ecotourism and handicraft production. By diversifying income sources, communities become less reliant on activities that harm gorilla habitats, alleviating poverty and fostering a sense of ownership over conservation efforts,” Alice Mbayahi, the communication and advocacy manager at IGCP says.
This coalition invests in education and awareness programs, empowering local communities with knowledge about the importance of gorilla conservation and sustainable practices. By highlighting the economic and ecological value of gorillas, the programme fosters a sense of pride and responsibility among community members, creating a positive cycle of conservation. Climate change poses a significant threat to gorillas and their habitats. Rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns and habitat degradation affect the gorillas’ food sources and disrupt their ecosystems. The urgency of addressing climate change and works towards sustainable solutions.
By integrating climate resilience into its conservation strategies, the programme helps local communities adapt to the changing environment. This includes promoting agroforestry, reforestation, and sustainable energy initiatives that reduce carbon emissions and protect gorilla habitats. By mitigating the effects of climate change, the IGCP contributes to the long-term survival of gorillas while benefiting human communities and the planet.
Gorilla Friendly Pledge
This programme encourages responsible tourism through the Gorilla Friendly Pledge. The Gorilla Pledge, initiated in 2014, has gained significant traction with more than 1,000 people pledging their commitment to securing the future for gorillas. This important initiative is driven by a set of objectives aimed at raising awareness and implementing practical measures to protect gorillas and their habitats.
One of the primary goals of the pledge is to reduce disease transmission, recognising that gorillas are susceptible to certain human diseases. By promoting responsible behavior and adherence to guidelines, such as maintaining a safe distance from gorillas and following strict hygiene practices, the pledge seeks to minimize the risk of disease transmission and protect gorilla populations from potential harm.
Furthermore, this pledge strives to make gorilla tourism sustainable. Recognising the economic benefits that tourism can bring to local communities, the pledge encourages responsible tourism practices that prioritise the well-being of gorillas and their habitats. This includes promoting guidelines for respectful behavior during gorilla encounters, ensuring a limited number of visitors per group, and supporting initiatives that directly benefit local communities. By fostering sustainable tourism practices, the pledge aims to generate income for conservation efforts while minimizing negative impacts on gorilla populations and their natural surroundings.
Ultimately, the Gorilla Pledge aims to maintain supportive international opinion for gorilla conservation. By raising awareness and garnering global support to secure long-term funding, promote collaborative research, and engage in advocacy efforts on behalf of gorillas. This ensures that the plight of gorillas remains in the public consciousness and that international support continues to be channeled towards their protection and conservation. Through these collective efforts, the Gorilla Pledge plays a vital role in safeguarding the future of gorillas and preserving these magnificent creatures for generations to come.
This programme has played a pivotal role in preserving gorillas and their habitats for over three decades. Through its collaborative approach, the program has achieved remarkable success in ensuring the survival of these magnificent creatures while uplifting local communities. By empowering people, mitigating climate change, and promoting responsible tourism, the IGCP continues to be a beacon of hope for gorilla
Did you know?
Gorilla Pledge is an online awareness raising campaign aimed at encouraging all those planning to visit the mountain gorillas – and even those who are not! – to pledge to observe gorilla tourism rules during treks and to share feedback on their trekking experience after the visit through the Gorilla Friendly Pledge website.