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What to expect when volunteering in gorilla conservation

Gorilla conservation

After chimpanzees and bonobos, humans are the closest relatives to gorillas. Unfortunately, although there has been a small increase in numbers over the last few years, they are still endangered. It’s estimated that they are just 100,000 left in the wild. The most affected being the mountain gorilla with an estimated population of just 880.

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Gorilla conservationLike most animals, the largest threat to gorillas is humans. Continued deforestation of their habitat, becoming ensnared and killed by traps intended for other animals and poached for the illegal bush meat trade are the gorillas’ biggest danger. Gorillas are also susceptible to human disease with the Ebola virus wiping out much of the population. These combined with the gorillas’ low reproductive rate have meant a serious decline in the population.

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Gorilla conservation is making a difference in helping reverse the fortunes of the mountain gorilla. The Great Projects run a gorilla conservation project based in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest which is home to around half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas (the other half being roughly split between neighbouring Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo).

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This award-winning project gives you the opportunity to get up close to mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Combine gorilla treks with aiding in reforestation efforts and working with communities to educate them on the importance of gorilla conservation. As well as having two permit-inclusive gorilla treks included in the package, volunteers will also take a four-day excursion to Uganda’s renowned Queen Elizabeth National Park to track wild chimpanzees.Gorilla conservation

So what will you do as a gorilla conservationist?

Gorilla trekking

Part of the project is building awareness of the gorillas’ plight. This can’t be done without understanding gorillas and their habitat. Included in the cost of the project are permitted gorilla treks up in into the mountainous Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where volunteers will spend several hours watching the family group feed and socialise with each other. Volunteers will get to know each of the gorillas and their very different personalities.

Education

A key part of the project is educating local communities on the importance of gorilla conservation. Volunteers will travel out to remote schools and communities and use a unique pedal-powered cinema to show a series of conservation films. This will help captivate the local children and stimulate debate on the gorillas.

Visit to national parks

Volunteers will take at least one trip out to Mgahinga National Park with a group of school children. To help gorillas, it is important the children are educated on a range of flora and fauna. Here they will have the opportunity to explore and discover in a fun and interesting way.

Chimpanzee trekking

If time permits, volunteers will take a trip out to Queen Elizabeth National Park to track chimpanzees in the forests. There is nothing quite like hearing that chimp call for the first time.

Reforestation

Volunteers will also assist in tree planting and reforestation work with the local community. This has the dual effect of educating local children about the dangers of deforestation as well as helping to reverse the damage that has already been done. Some of the seedlings planted will help provide the community with materials for locally made handicrafts.

Gorilla organisation

Spend at least a day visiting some of the grassroots projects created by the Gorilla Organisations’ community projects. These include helping reformed poachers learn about agriculture, bee keeping, organic farming. All the projects have been developed to help communities that were displaced when the national parks were established.

Boat trips and game drives

Time not spent on gorilla conservation efforts can be spend exploring the rest of this fascinating region and other wildlife. Spend an afternoon aboard a boat on the Kazinga channel to spot hippos, bird life, elephants and lions. Volunteers will also have the opportunity to take game drives in the Queen Elizabeth National Park in search of various African wildlife. As well as the big 5, it’s also possible to see leopards and hyenas.Gorilla conservation

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