Gorilla Habituation Experience – All You Need to Know

The Gorilla Habituation Experience is the process of taming gorillas to get used to human beings . This is aimed at establishing a positive human gorilla relationship so as to enable free interaction o humans and gorillas . For a gorilla family to be visited by tourists the family has to first go through the habituation exercise so as to avoid risks of injuries from these gentle giants .

Gorilla habituation started in Uganda in a year 1991 immediately after the gazettement of Bwindi impenetrable national Park as a national park .this is was purposely aimed at attracting tourists to the park . The first family to be habituated in Bwindi impenetrable national for tourists is called Mubare gorilla family who was ready for visitors viewing in 1993 .

Our Gorilla Habituation Experience in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

The family was led the alpha male who was called Ruhondeza who led these family diligently until a year 2012 when he died . Thus Iconic silverback is one of the most celebrated individuals because he is the one who gave hope for gorilla habituation here in Bwindi by allowing his family and himself to get used to humans. Ruhondeza by the time of his death was estimated to have been visited or seen by 50k visitors before his death.

In Uganda today we have 27 gorilla families which are fully habituated for visitors viewing where by 26 gorilla families bare found in Bwindi impenetrable national Park and the mighty Nyakagezi gorilla family which is found in Mgahinga gorilla national park a sister park to Bwindi impenetrable national Park an ecosystem which also hosts the mountain gorillas which only live in Bwindi impenetrable national Park in Uganda and the virunga massif eco system which is comprised of 3 national parks in three different countries I.e Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and the Virunga National Park in the DR Congo .

So far Bwindi is estimated to have got over 300 fully habituated individuals which is over 50% of their projected total population of 459 as per the census of 2018.

Habituation exercise always lasts for a period of 2 to 3 years or more to have a gorilla family fully habituated for visitors viewing . This exercise os done by well trained rangers who are self motivated , determined and willing to offer their best so as to develop the country’s tourism sector.

Gorilla Habituation is done in phases

This ranges from the identification of the family size , for a gorilla family to be habituated it is important to establish how big the family is because usually while habituating their are a number of risks involved which may range from injuries to those involved in the process and also their are always possibilities of missing the family.

While habituating Management always tends to be so reluctant to habituate families with less than 5 members because such families the individuals can easily split and hence you will be left with one or two members which is not a good number for visitors interest. Also families with more than 15 members from the time of first sighting are not easy to habituate because most of the cases such families are heterosexual in nature and that gives makes it hard to habituate such family because the 2 or 3 silverbacks in the family can easily turn aggressive hence making it hard to the habituation team and also makes it more likely for the habituation team to have more attacks from the animals.

After understanding the family size, the habituation exercise will start immediately and this will require the habituation team to establish multiple camps inside the forest because a gorilla family which is under habituation always intends to move for a long distance and the trackers will hardly

make it out of the forest in time so establishing camps in the forests enables them to walk to the gorillas and also walk back to their camping point.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda – Mountain Gorilla Habituation Experience

The habituation team has to keep visiting the family which is under the habituation process everyday without missing because if the faul to visit them their are higher chances of them failing to allocate it for the rest of the days so they have to ensure that every day they visit the gorillas this will boast the chances of the family getting used to the humans and each day when they visit them they spend at least 4 to 6 hours with them given the fact that the interaction tends to be of an aggressive moments because the gorillas are completely scared of humans encounter .

During the first 6 month of the vigorous exercise , the interaction tends to more of aggressiveness as the gorillas tend to try to defend themselves from. The humans and it is at this process that h the rangers have always sustained horrible injuries because of this kind of encounters as gorillas always after hearing humans coming they start to reacting either by attacking them or by running away . In this first 6 month of the exercise the habituation team will always hardly see them because even though they charge at them after the charge they will not stay there they will run away .

After six month the charging will continue but now the animals will try to show interests in seeing g human beings whereby they can now charge and settle down to feed then after again they charge and run for a short distance start feeding as humans keep following them

After a period of one year of this vigorous exercise with complete dedicated efforts from the team the relationship starts to build up between them and the gorillas , this will now give the trackers room to show themselves to these animals and also do so imitation of some of the behaviors of this animal .Among the things that the habituation team imitates includes the chest beats , gorillas are found of making chest beats both when they are threatened and also for the babies they male chest beats as a sign of showing of their strength while playing . A strong gorilla is the one with a very loud chest beat and the habituation team will keep chest beating in front of this animals and the chest beats of humans doesn’t sound as loud as the one of the humans beings . This will then make the gorillas to start looking at humans as weak creature hence staring to undermine any potential threats from humans hence losing fear from humans .

Gorillas communicate to each other through a number of distinctive vocalizations which they understand best to themselves , the habituation team will then also have to imitate a number of those vocals that they use for communication and by so doing this will make the animals feel they are part of them .

Pretending to food on vegetation. Gorillas are 99% vegetarians and they mostly feed on plant leaves and the habituation team will always try to Pretend to be feeding on the plant leaves as they will keep plucking leaves from trees and pretend to be putting them into the mouth and yet they are throwing them down this will attract the attention of the animals hence they stating looking at them hence losing fear of humans since they will be thinking that we are part of them .

Walking. Gorillas have a unique Walking style whereby they use both their legs and arms while walking so the team will have to pretend to also walk like them. All these imitations are aimed attracting the attention of the animals and this will later smoothen the human gorilla interaction .

Once a positive relationship between humans and the gorillas starts to show signs which is always around 1 and half years time management will now allow tourist to keep visiting the family for the habituation experience . The habituation experience is when tourists take part in the exercise of

taming gorillas to get humans this experience always starts very early in the morning whereby the tourists will have to move together with the trackers or the habituation team up to where the family was left a day before the start trekking the gorillas until when they allocate them . This experience lasts for a period of 4 hours . The 4 hour time starts to count from the point the tourists arrive at the point where the family was left a day before and they will take part in the search of the gorillas through observing the gorilla trails which will later lead them to a point gorillas nested for the night , and they will also take partying next counting and later on proceed with the early morning trails which will lead them to where the gorillas will be allocated during the morning hours.

During this period a lot will be assessed to see how the animals reacts to the presence of tourists however it had Bern noted that whenever tourists are introduced to the gorillas it always speeds up the habituation process because these animals seem to be attracted to the light skinned body colours of the tourists which a appears unique and un usual and very rare to them and this attracts their attention to come close and see the tourists closely hence completely loosing fear for himself beings hence the family will now be declared completely habituated and hence officially opened for tourists to visit on daily basis .