How Best Can Mountain Gorillas And Chimpanzees Be Protected From Covid-19?
How Best Can Mountain Gorillas And Chimpanzees Be Protected From Covid-19? The most difficult thing to understand is how to keep the most valuable African primates protected from the most dangerous thing that is causing trouble in modern history, Covid-19. With the mountain gorilla population continuously increasing up to 1071 individuals and still listed as endangered on the ICUN red list, answers to that question are absolutely necessary to human closest relatives because they share about 98% Human DNA. Different people such as rangers, guides, and researchers have been well educated and do everything to protect these primates in their natural habitats.
Gorilla tracking, chimpanzee tracking, and golden monkey tracking are the most done activities in countries Rwanda, Uganda, and DR Congo. Uganda has the highest population of mountain gorillas with more than a half of the total population finding their home in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park which has 20 habituated gorilla families and about 80 in Mgahinga national park with one habituated gorilla family which has the highest number of silverbacks. The remaining population of mountain gorillas is found in Virunga national park of DR Congo and here you find 8 habituated gorilla families and 20 families in volcanoes national park of Rwanda but only 10 are open for trekking and the other 10 groups are for research.
In Uganda, chimpanzee trekking is bests done in the Kibale forest national park, Kyambura gorge in Queen Elizabeth national park and Budongo forest near Murchison falls national park. Golden monkey trekking is only done in Mgahinga gorilla national park in the southwestern part of Uganda.
Due to the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic, millions of people have lost their life and more people will die if they do not follow standard operating procedures. Because these apes share about 98% of human DNA, they are at risk of being infected just like human beings and this can affect other primates as well because they are already threatened with extinction from human encroachment, habitat destruction, poachers, illegal pet trade, and other diseases.
Luckily enough there has been no case of primates yet being affected by covid-19 affecting any of the primates yet. But we have to be extra careful because any time they can get affected the fact that they share about 98% DNA with human beings puts them at a big risk. So, people with communicable diseases such as flu, cough, and those with signs of Covid-19 are not allowed to trek.
Worldwide there have been preventive measures of Covid-19 such as wearing a mask, cleaning hands, and keeping social distance to avoid contracting the disease. The fact that these primates can’t maintain the social distance between themselves, it’s why they ask trekkers to keep a distance of about 7 meters away from these primates so as not to transmit diseases in case of any.
How is Uganda protecting gorillas and chimpanzees from the coronavirus?
The outbreak of covid-19 has prompted the wildlife authorities to put measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus. These include the following.
- Tourists, daily trackers, and monitoring staff and staff have been directed to be vigilant, wash their hands, and sanitize to avoid passing any possible infection to the primates
- Tourists have been advised to keep social distance in order to avoid the contraction of the virus.
- The government has restricted travel to and from category one countries such as India to avoid the importation of the virus.
- Primate research in all national parks and other protected areas has been suspended indefinitely.
- All activities that include close contact with the chimpanzees in Ngamba island sanctuary such as direct feeding, volunteers, behavioral research, and gorilla habituation have been suspended
- Uganda wildlife authority has relaxed the rescheduling policy of gorilla trekking and chimpanzee trekking permits to avoid the cancellation of trips already booked. You are not allowed to reschedule tracking permits to your following preferred dates and this is not done more than two times. This offer is on until March 2022.
- Uganda tourism board, Uganda wildlife authority Uganda tour operators’ association have all passed guiding principles to tour operators and facilities to adhere to domestic travel and when the parks are open to the international community.
- Uganda wildlife authority has asked all researchers and trackers to put on masks while collecting data and monitoring these primates in their natural habitats.
Where to find primates in Uganda
Mountain gorillas in Uganda are only found in two national parks and these are Mgahinga national park with only 1 habituated gorilla family and Bwindi impenetrable forest national park with over 20 gorilla families of which two are undergoing habituation in the Rushaga sector of the park. Apart from Uganda, mountain gorillas are found in volcanoes national park of Rwanda and the Virunga national park of DR Congo. Chimpanzees in Uganda can be found in Budongo forest, Kibale forest national park, Ngamba island sanctuary, and Kyambura gorge.
What is the best time to track primates in Uganda?
Primate national parks in Uganda can be visited at any time of the year but the best time would be the dry season when there is little or no rainfall. It’s during the dry season that the vegetation in the park is thin for clear views of primates, the roads leading to the park are passable and the trekking trails are not muddy or slippery. If you are planning to trek gorillas in the dry season you are advised to book your permits in advance of 3-4 months with a trusted tour operator or Uganda wildlife authority.