The little more than 700 mountain gorillas inhabiting planet Earth live in the forests of Bwindi and the Virungas which are small islands of forest, surrounded by some of the highest rural population densities in Africa. The success of mountain gorilla conservation is largely dependent on a symbiotic relationship between the mountain gorillas and the communities living in the periphery of these forests.
As part of its gorilla conservation initiatives, Uganda Wildlife Authority has taken great measures to sensitise and educate the communities in the Bwindi and Mt. Mgahinga National Parks on the values and benefits of mountain gorilla conservation and to promote this win-win relationship between the communities and the mountain gorillas.
To this end UWA is actively involved in the development of these rural communities through:
Direct and indirect employment – most of the trackers and guards employed by UWA are from the surrounding communities.
Development of the infrastructure in these communities. UWA donates monies for development of schools, roads, hospitals and to small scale farming activities at house-hold levels e.g. goat rearing, bee-keeping, piggery etc.
Resettlement and development of the Batwa peoples who once lived in Bwinidi Impenetrable Forest.
In addition to the direct efforts of UWA, the communities have also benefited through their own initiatives such as the Buhoma Community Rest Camp, and also through goodwill from individuals and charitable organizations.
This community buy-in has greatly reduced one of the challenges often experienced in conservation of most endangered species, the human-wildlife conflict.