People & GorillasTourism


  • The silverback Mlima; in the foreground BaAka tracker Molongo (© Chloé Cipolletta)

How long have tourists been able to visit gorillas?

Gorilla tourism was started in Uganda by Walter Baumgärtel, who managed the Travellers Rest Hotel from 1955 until 1969. However, intensive gorilla tourism only started in 1978, when the Mountain Gorilla Project in Rwanda habituated some gorilla groups specifically for tourists. At about the same time gorilla tourism started in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park.

How can tourism help gorillas?

The revenue generated by gorilla tourism aims to ensure gorilla conservation. The number of gorillas in the Virungas increased from 261 in 1973 to 324 in 1989 - the tourism project was credited with this positive development. Nowadays, it is possibly to visit the eastern and the western gorillas in several areas.

How are visits to the gorillas monitored?


To prevent harm to the animals, the number of tourists per gorilla group is usually limited to eight people and the duration of the visit is restricted to 1 hour. The considerable amounts of money that are paid for gorilla visits are tempting and can easily result in corruption. Many people make a profit and there is a risk that money is the prime motivation here, not gorilla conservation. Only very strict monitoring by state actors can prevent people ignoring the rules. If the required minimum distance is not adhered to, the risk of transferring diseases is drastically increased. It is up to every individual tourist to help ensure that tourism will benefit and not harm the gorillas.

Gorilla Tourism - Pros and Cons

Intensive gorilla tourism was set up in Rwanda in the late 1970s: groups of mountain gorillas were habituated to humans with the specific purpose of taking tourists to visit them. The same procedure was followed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Uganda. To make sure that the animals are not adversely affected by visits, the tourists have to comply with strict rules. The question arises, however, as to whether using the gorillas as a tourist attraction is actually a beneficial protection measure - tourism may also have negative effects on the animals.

Advantages Disadvantages
A higher degree of safety: the regular presence of people deters poachers. Gorillas lose their natural shyness toward people: as a result they raid crops and no longer flee from poachers.
Better monitoring: regular visits help to record births, deaths and other population changes, to identify health problems in individual gorilla groups and to record illegal activities in the protected areas. Infectious diseases: diseases can be transferred from humans and domestic animals to gorillas.
Source of foreign exchange: the considerable income generated from gorilla tourism safeguards the maintenance of the protected areas. The national park authorities benefit from this income, as does anybody who generates income from tourism including, albeit to a smaller degree, the resident population. Behavioural changes: the presence of humans may generate stress.
Popularity: being charismatic animals, gorillas generate a lot of interest - both from the media and scientists. Population pressure: an increasing number of people hope to profit from tourism and therefore move closer to the protected areas. People living in the neighbourhood of the gorillas but making little or no profit from tourism are often frustrated and, as a consequence, they may hinder protection measures.
  Habituation of too many gorillas: the range countries may become too dependent on gorilla tourism and habituate more and more gorilla groups.
  Within national parks habitat is lost for tourist facilities and vegetation is destroyed.

Certified Gorilla Friendly - Safeguarding Gorilla Tourism as a Conservation Tool

June 2018

The International Gorilla Conservation Programme has been operating for more than 25 years, and has provided financial and technical support for the...[details]

Being a Good Guest - A Guide for Tourists Visiting Gorillas

June 2018

As with many types of wildlife tourism, viewing gorillas has grown in popularity since the 1980s. Currently tourists can visit more than 20 gorilla...[details]

Gorilla Habituation for Research and Tourism in Loango

January 2017

Two components of gorilla conservation are research and tourism. Research provides the baseline information concerning the natural ecological and...[details]

The Story of Two Pioneers in the Habituation of Eastern Gorillas

July 2016

Scientifically, there are four subspecies of gorillas: Gorilla beringei beringei, Gorilla beringei graueri, Gorilla gorilla gorilla and Gorilla...[details]

Update: Conflict in the Central African Republic

December 2014

The Dzanga-Sangha Protected Areas (DSPA), located in the southwestern Central African Republic (CAR) and the northern edge of the Congo basin, is...[details]

Equitable Conservation for Bwindi's Gorillas

December 2014

Mountain gorillas of Bwindi Impenetra­ble National Park, Uganda, live in one of the poorest regions of Africa. This creates a major challenge for...[details]

Two Leading Silverbacks Die

June 2014

Mishaya, the leader of the Mishaya group, died on 3 February, 2014 at the age of 28 years after a short illness. Preliminary results indicate that...[details]

History of Habituated Gorillas in Bwindi

June 2014

Habituation of wild gorillas has long been a useful tool for research and conservation programs. Decisions to habituate gorillas typically reflect a...[details]

Gorilla Tourism - a Social Perspective

June 2014

Gorilla tourism and conservation can­not be sustained if it is not supported by fringe communities around the parks. Gorilla ecotourism areas are...[details]

A Visit to Kahuzi-Biega

July 2013

The Kahuzi-Biega National Park is located in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo near the big city of Bukavu on the southern shore of...[details]

Guide Refresher Training at Bai Hokou and Mongambe

January 2013

The Primate Habituation Programme (PHP) in the Central African Republic is an integral part of the conservation activities of Dzanga-Sangha Protected...[details]

The 7-metre Gorilla Tracking Regulation

July 2012

An UWA ranger informs gorilla tourist on the correct behaviour. (© Allison C. Hanes)

The mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) is listed as Critically Endangered (C1) by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature...[details]

The 2011 Kwita Izina

January 2012

Performance at the Kwita Izina (© Gabriele Müller-Jensen)

Rwanda demonstrates how much the country values its few remaining mountain gorillas. Every year, Kwita Izina is celebrated in June. All mountain...[details]

Mondberge visits Ruhija

January 2012

Uganda, June 2011: After our fascinat­ing hike through the Ruwenzoris and a short safari in the Queen Elizabeth National Park we were looking forward...[details]

Initiation of an Aid Project

December 2009

Relaxing after the seven displays have been put up in Ruhija. Left: Martha Robbins, right: Andreas Klotz (©

The project "Mountains of the Moon" was founded in the middle of 2008, with the aim of contributing to the protection of species through...[details]

Mufanzala and Birindwa Groups

December 2009

The gorilla statue with the Vice-Governor of South Kivu, Jean Claude Kibala (the 4th person from the left) (© Radar Nishuli/Parc National de Kahuzi-Biega)

After the death of the two silverbacks of these gorilla groups on March 26th and May 30th 2009, respectively, several friends of the gorillas of the...[details]

Western Gorilla Tourism

June 2009

Silverback activity budget by human group type (© Chloe Hodgkinson)

Following the widely perceived success of mountain gorilla tourism, there has been increasing interest in developing tourism based on the observation...[details]

Advantages and Disadvantages of Ape Research and Tourism

June 2008

The behaviour of free-ranging chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) has been studied in the Taï National Park in Côte d'Ivoire since 1979. Three communities...[details]

Western Gorilla Tourism

December 2006

Available only within the Gorilla Journal PDF file[details]

Impacts of Habituation for Ecotourism

June 2005

Available only within the Gorilla Journal PDF file.[details]

10 Years of Gorilla Tourism in Mgahinga

June 2004

Available only within the Gorilla Journal PDF file.[details]

Tourism in Dzanga-Sangha

February 2001

Available only within the Gorilla Journal PDF file[details]

Memories of Walter Baumgärtel

June 1998

Available only within the Gorilla Journal PDF file[details]

Max-Walter Baumgärtel Is Dead

June 1998

Available only within the Gorilla Journal PDF file[details]

Is Gorilla Tourism Sustainable?

June 1998

Available only within the Gorilla Journal PDF file[details]

Human Impact on Gorilla Behaviour

June 2010

Leanne Van der Weyde viewing the gorillas (© Michelle Klailova)

Western lowland gorilla tourism exists on a considerably smaller scale than that of the high profile mountain gorillas. Yet the successful...[details]

Gorilla tourism in Central Africa

June 1999

Available only within the Gorilla Journal PDF file[details]

Gorilla Tourism on Mikeno

December 2009

Tourists with masks during their gorilla visit on Mikeno (©

Mountain gorilla tourism brings much needed revenue to the Virunga National Park for the conservation effort - but it also brings the threat of...[details]

Ape Tourism and Human Diseases

June 2000

Available only within the Gorilla Journal PDF file[details]


July 2009

The silverback Papa Gentil in Group Gentil (Sept. 2007) (© Chieko Ando)

Since 1999, a long-term survey of gorillas and chimpanzees has been conducted by Kyoto University in Moukalaba-Doudou National Park, Gabon. The...[details]

Benefits and Costs of Mountain Gorilla Tourism

February 2001

Available only within the Gorilla Journal PDF file[details]

Habituation of Bwindi Gorillas

February 2001

Available only within the Gorilla Journal PDF file[details]

Training for Kahuzi Guides

December 2001

Available only within the Gorilla Journal PDF file[details]