With growing demand for research programmes into gorillas and into eco-tourism, the impact of the increase in human contact on gorillas is a mounting issue, both in terms of the transmission of disease and the psychological impact on the apes. Research is required into the best way of managing this as tourism in this area develops.
Bai Hokou is a study site located in the Central African Republic. It was chosen in 1997 as the base for a long-term project looking at developing gorilla sites for research and eco-tourism. Featured in the American Journal of Primatology, one of the aims of the site was to study the effects of human impact on gorillas and consider how best to minimise the disruption to their lives.
The findings of a preliminary study in 2006 found that the presence of researchers and tourists correlated with an increase in aggressive behaviours and a decrease in resting behaviours amongst the gorillas. There is a distance recommendation of at least seven metres between humans and gorillas, and further research has been carried out looking into whether this is sufficient. The results indicated that when the distance between humans and gorillas increased to ten metres, there was a significant decrease in aggression. The research also found that an increase in the number of people present resulted in a decrease in group feeding and an increase in aggression. With these kind of statistics you have to wonder why we keep going to disrupt them and why not just watch them from the comfort of our own home and let them live peacefully. Just switch on your television and go to the nature channel and hope your equipment all works including your aerial. If its faulty you could always contact a TV Aerial Repair Cheltenham company to come and fix it for you.
There were two main recommendations that came out of this study. Firstly, to aim to ensure a human-gorilla distance of at least ten metres where possible; and secondly, to limit research or tourist group sizes to up to six people if necessary, but to just three if possible.
As eco-tourism grows in areas like Uganda gorilla trekking, it’s essential to continue researching its impact to limit and manage any detrimental effects. If you’re considering this sort of eco-tourism, established tour operators who will be experienced in offering ethical trips.
When eco-tourism is done well it can have a significant positive impact on local communities, providing income and employment as well as conservation. Ongoing research is needed into how this can be done with the least impact on gorilla populations.