The unprecedented days of the COVID19 pandemic have unmasked the urgent need for collaboration and unity between conservation organizations and authority towards protecting the endangered mountain gorillas. Porters are categorically one of the key pillars of mountain gorilla conservation because they spend a reasonable amount of time in the parks, helping and guiding tourists. Porters as well act as the bridge between park-edge communities and the authority. It is in this vein that IGCP in collaboration with Volcanoes National Park trained over 55 porters on compliance and accentuating gorilla visitation rules (https://www.iucn.org/content/best-practice-guidelines-great-ape-tourism) .
The two days’ training called on porters to have an upper hand in educating and ensuring that tourists observe the great apes visitation rules, a task that is usually left to the trackers. Speaking of the training, Chief Park Warden for Volcanoes National Park Prosper Uwingeli stressed its timeliness and importance, “We now know that Mountain gorillas are susceptible to human related infections including the COVID19 global pandemic. It is important that we use the acquired knowledge to become better stewards of the mountain gorillas.”
Interesting take home notes for the porters included; ensuring hygiene and sanitation in and around the park, reminding tourists to keep a distance of at least 10 metres from the mountain gorillas, avoiding human-animal close contact, among others. The trainees will train their colleagues on gorilla visitation rules.
“Awareness on the importance of being gorilla friendly and other conservation matters will help us reduce illegal practices in our respective porters’ cooperatives.” Said Jack Bisamaza Chairman of Kabeho Ngagi (Long Live Gorilla) one of the porters’ cooperatives.
There are over 500 porters working in the Volcanoes National Parks and their collaboration can contribute immensely to protecting the mountain gorillas.