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Rwanda gorilla family migrates to Uganda: National park leaders should take heed

According to sources in the Virunga conservation area, 20 gorillas from the Hirwa family crossed over to  Mt. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in southwestern Uganda. They have been there for at least a week now.

This was confirmed by Uganda Wildlife Authority’s (UWA’s) website executive and photographer, Paddy Musiime  Muramura, who confirmed that the gorillas have been in Uganda for a few weeks, and they are being managed alongside gorillas already living within the guidelines of the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP).

The program’s revenue is shared 50-50 between Rwanda and Uganda when gorillas are tracked across either border. The paradox is the disparity in the cost of permits between the 2 countries. Rwanda’s permits cost $1,500 compared to Uganda’s at $600. The 2 countries had originally harmonized their pricing before Rwanda reneged.

Mountain gorillas move freely, crossing these geographical borders shared by Uganda and Rwanda, as well as the DR Congo in what is known as the Greater Virunga Landscape. The Hirwa family came from the northern part of Rwanda known as Kinigi, and they are now camped in Mgahinga. This is not the first time this has happened. Until a couple of years ago, it was not possible to book gorilla permits in Mgahinga because the Mgahinga family had migrated across the border almost a decade prior.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is perched in the clouds at an altitude of between 2,227 and 4,127 meters. As its name suggests, it was created to protect the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit its dense forests. It is also an important habitat for the endangered golden monkey

As well as being important for wildlife, the park also has a huge cultural significance in particular for the indigenous Batwa pygmies. This tribe of hunter-gatherers was the forest’s “first people,” and their ancient knowledge of its secrets remains unrivaled.

Mgahinga is part of the Greater Virunga Landscape which is also part of the Albertine Rift. It is richest in endemic and threatened species including all of the world’s mountain gorillas, grauers gorillas, and chimpanzees. Containing 8 national parks, 4 forest reserves, and 3 wildlife reserves, this landscape  straddles the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda. Virunga, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, and Rwenzori National Parks are World Heritage sites, while Queen Elizabeth National Park is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and Lake George is a Ramsar site.

The potential of selling this region is immense, and with DRC hoping to join the East African Community (EAC) as one region bloc, it is hoped that the EAC leaders borrow a leaf from the Hirwa family and the rest of the gorillas toward integration of these national parks.

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