According to the 2017 Virunga gorilla census, there are only about 1000 Mountain Gorillas left in the wild worldwide. Making it a critically endangered species of ape. Half of this population is found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in south western Uganda. The other half is found in the magnificent Virunga Mountain ranges. These are shared by Rwanda (Volcanoes National Park), Uganda (Mgahinga National Park) and Democratic Republic of Congo (Virunga National Park).
Many International and regional bodies working hard to protect the gorillas and their habitat such as International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP), Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Rwanda Development Board and Gorilla Doctors, among others. Man is the main threat to the mountain gorilla population in Africa. This threat is through activities of poaching and encroachment to their habitat. Therefore, Eco tourism is the way forward towards the protection of the mountain gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda through the following ways;
In the first instance, habituating gorilla groups for ecotourism purposes. Mountain gorilla tours are the main tourist activity in the park. A maximum of 8 persons are allowed to visit each gorilla group per day. And tourists are only allowed to stay with the gorillas for a maximum of one hour. Man is a visitor in small groups for a short period of time. This promotes responsible travel and protects the gorillas and their natural setting.
Additionally, gorilla trekking rules being put in place and clients are briefed before starting the trek. The rules aim at protecting the mountain gorillas and their habitat. These rules include; not to litter in the gorilla habitat, not to make noise in the forest, not to smoke, drink or eat near gorillas, no taking pictures with flash cameras, Keep distance of 7 meters from the gorillas, not to touch the gorillas, dig a hole in case you want to ease yourself and bury it after, cover your mouth when coughing to avoid transmitting diseases to the gorillas and if a person has flu or cough, they are not allowed to go gorilla trekking hence protecting the great apes of Africa.
Furthermore, ex poachers have been employed in different sectors of tourism such as Eco-lodges and in the park. Most porters and park rangers were ex-poachers, now fighting poaching and saving the Mountain Gorillas. Because they now benefit from the gorillas, they can no-longer go back to poaching, thus saving the mountain gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda.