Uganda gorilla tracking now goes online

A Silverback gorilla with her baby at the Bwindi Impenetrable
Forest in Uganda . Picture: Morgan Mbabazi

By HALIMA ABDALLAH  (email the author)

The Uganda Wildlife Authority is set to launch
online gorilla-tracking, to promote tourism
around the primates globally, previously
only done on a small-scale by private tour operators.

Through the friendagorilla.org website to be

launched this month, gorilla lovers worldwide

will have a chance to befriend any of

Uganda's gorillas from the

seven habituated groups at a cost

of one dollar or its equivalent

The website will also have other sections

like Geo-Track, where one can track gorillas

using actual Global Positioning System

co-ordinates that the authority's gorilla trackers

will be provided with regularly.

In addition, the site will have

a section for virtual tracking.

Gorilla lovers will be able to track the gorillas

online in real time.

Fees for the electronic tracking are yet

to be determined.

Currently, the authority charges

$500 per permit per day to track

a single family.

We shall have cameras placed strategically

in the forest and when you log on,

you can see a gorilla moving in the forest

from your screen," said Thomas Slater Jr,

art director at QG Saatchi &Saatchi,

the company working on the project.

To befriend the primates, subscribers will pay

the one dollar by way of short messages

using their mobile phones, Master or

Visa card.

Online trackers will able to add gorillas

as friends on Internet social sites

such as Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.

If it succeeds, the project will make

$700,000 annually.

The money will be used to hire more

trackers to bring the number to

45 from 25; buy communication equipment

for the trackers and a special

power generator that is less noisy.

"The money raised will also go towards

conservation efforts through community

projects and help bring the gorillas

to the living rooms of many more people,"

said Eunice Mahoro, tourism director at UWA.

The online gorilla tracking project is one

of the major marketing efforts undertaken

by the government, considering that gorillas

are the country's biggest tourism attraction.

Last year the industry earned the country

$600 million, of which $225 million

was from gorilla tourism.

Corporates have also been given a chance

to support the project by sponsoring

web pages for a whole year.

The new marketing strategy coincides

with the UN declaration of 2009

is the Year of the Gorilla.

The aim is to raise awareness on the need

to conserve gorillas, which are considered

endangered because of human activities

like habitat destruction through logging,

burning and clearing of land for agriculture,

hunting and trapping by poachers,

diseases and armed conflicts.

There are about 720 gorillas left worldwide,

half of which are in Uganda's Bwindi

Impenetrable Forest.

The rest are found in the Virunga habitat

shared between Rwanda, Uganda and

DR Congo, with Uganda's Mgahinga Gorilla

national park protecting the northern pvolcanic slopes.

The designers of the online strategy are

optimistic that the new marketing tool

will attract more gorilla tourists from

the United States and Europe

where millions of people have access

to the Internet and use social sites.

Link here

             J-L K.
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