In an announcement made today, the Rwanda Development Board has raised the price of a permit issued to experience mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park from 500 USD to 750 USD for foreign nationals effective June 1, 2012, save for prior bookings made before this date.
The rates for mountain gorilla permits was increased by 50% across the board; the price for a permit for foreign residents will rise from 250 USD to 375 USD, and permits for Rwandan nationals will rise from 20,000 Rwandan Francs (RWF; slightly over 30 USD) to 30,000 RWF (about 50 USD).
The head of Tourism and Conservation at RDB Rica Rwigamba explained through the announcement, “We have seen a sustained increase in interest for gorilla trek as well as recognition that good conservation can truly contribute to growth of these species. Mountain Gorillas are the only increasing gorilla species population, which is evidence that responsible tourism and conservation go hand in hand.”
The permit allows visitors to experience a habituated family group of mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park for a period of one hour upon visual contact with the gorillas, and distance between mountain gorillas and people is kept at no less than seven meters. Only eight visitors are allowed per mountain gorilla group per day. The Rwanda Development Board has also committed to maintain the 5% contribution from each permit sold for communities around Volcanoes National Park through the country’s revenue-sharing programme.
“We hope that the increase of the price of a mountain gorilla permit will also increase the resources allocated to park management and community livelihoods,” said Eugène Rutagarama, Director of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, a coalition of the African Wildlife Foundation, Fauna & Flora International, and the World Wide Fund for Nature.
While each country has the mandate to set the prices of mountain gorilla permits issued in their own country, these decisions are now taken in consultation with RDB’s counterparts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature or ICCN) and Uganda (Uganda Wildlife Authority or UWA) as well as partner organizations and private sector partners.
In comparison, Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) currently offers mountain gorilla trekking permits for 400 USD for foreign nationals, and gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda currently offers mountain gorilla trekking permits for 500 USD for foreign nationals. Mountain gorillas are only found in DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda and the total number for this critically endangered species is estimated at 780.