Thursday, July 30, 2015

New Mountain Gorillas Census set for September 2015

A new census for Mountain Gorillas is set for September 2015 in the Great Virunga Massif is set for September, 2015, the Greater Virunga Trans boundary Collaboration- GVTC has said.
The massif includes Uganda's Bwindi and Mgahinga National Park, Virunga National Park in DR Congo and the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

The last mountain gorillas census was conducted in September 2011 and its results indicated a 3.2% increase in gorilla population (to a total of about 880 in the wild) in the Greater Virunga the previous ones  having been conducted in 2006, 2002 and 1997. All other censuses before have taken place in a duration spacing of five years apart.

This census is aimed at estimating the current gorilla numbers of Uganda’s BINP, document information on illegal activities, the gorillas distribution and compile information on other mammals in the ecosystem.

The organizations involved in the planning and eventual implementation of the activity include Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Greater Virunga Trans boundary Collaborative Secretariat (GTVCS), the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature, the Rwanda Development Board, local governments and the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Conservation Through Public Health, the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund – International and us, the Institute for Tropical Forest Conservation.

James Byamukama, the Programme Manager at GVTC says the exercise, which should have started earlier, was delayed by the insecurity in DR Congo.  He however adds that they are set to conduct the census in September starting in Virunga National Park.
Byamukama says with the census, the collaboration will be able to plan for future conservation efforts and the emerging trends of threats to gorilla population. Periodic censuses of endangered populations of high-profile species including gorillas help conservationists to understand their population dynamics assess the success of conservation programmes aimed at ensuring their survival

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, and to ensure that they receive continued attention from the global conservation community.

The method of use in this census will be the sweep method as well as fecal samples collected for generic analysis.  In the sweep method, teams traverse each marked sector of the park in a zigzag manner. They look for fresh gorilla trails till their nests are found and counted.  The estimates are made based on nests encountered in the due course of the census. The estimates are made based on nests encountered in the due course of the census. In great apes mammals, research has proven that the sweeping has been the most efficient method to date unlike the transect,experts assert.
In a preparatory census meeting of the stakeholders recently in Kabale, UWA’s Senior Monitoring and Research co-coordinator, Mr. Aggrey Rwesiba stated how important this exercise is to Uganda Wildlife Authority. He noted that the census provided vital information for establishing best management strategies that could be applied at both local and global scales to conserve the mountain Gorilla population. He accordingly  stressed that the census was an important index for the different stakeholders on the effectiveness of their work towards conserving the mountain gorillas.

Unlike other censuses done before in Bwindi, generic analysis where the fecal samples will be analyzed to minimize error and ascertain more accurate figures of the gorillas. It is estimated that a distance of not less than 600km will be covered by various teams to be involved in the census around the entire. Many staff from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has already committed themselves to be part of this historical event of counting gorillas and preparation are in a high notch. The vegetation and terrain of Bwindi forest make it uniquely different from that Virungas. This makes the census more challenging as well as exciting, something to look forward to. 
The Conservation Area Manager of Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Area, Mr. Pontius Ezuma has committed resources such as standby vehicles for the field teams and security all through the census exercise. In his own admission, he expects a rigorous time ahead thus the need to adequately prepare since the exercise has to be accommodated with many routine activities in park.
In the census carried out in Bwindi population in was carried out in 2002,  results showed that the population had increased since the previous census in 1997 by approximately 7%, to 320 individuals according to McNeilage and others 2006 while the Virunga population currently numbers around 380 gorillas . Another census of the Bwindi gorilla population was carried out between April and June 2006 to determine the population's total size and structure, its distribution across Bwindi, and the potential impact of human disturbance on the population.
The results at the time showed show that the 5 habituated groups in Bwindi contained a total of 76 individuals at the time of the census. In addition to these, 25 unhabituated groups were found, containing 227 individuals along with 11 lone silverback males, giving a total uncorrected population count of 314 individuals.

Though gorillas have few natural predators, they are endangered due to the loss of habitat and forest clearing. They also fall victim to hunting for the wildlife trade, and through accidental snaring by poachers who are targeting antelopes for meat. Diseases that affect humans also pose a threat to apes and can spread quickly in such small populations.

Friday, July 24, 2015

British Airways suspends Heathrow–Entebbe route flights

British Airways (BA) final flights to and from Entebbe airport to London Heathrow will be on October 2 and October 3, 2015 respectively as the company suspends all its services.

BA says after a review of its flight schedules, Heathrow-Entebbe route was not considered commercially viable.

british-airways-entebbe-london-heathrow-flights-suspended-2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Planning a gorilla trek in Uganda, what to consider – How to plan your 2015 gorilla tracking program, transport to Bwindi, accommodation, how to book the gorilla permits, cost of the gorilla tour.

Planning a perfect 2015 gorilla trek in Uganda, what to consider – planning your program, transport to Bwindi, accommodation, how to book the gorilla permits, cost of the gorilla tour, booking gorilla permits for 2015.

In Uganda, Gorilla tracking can only either be done in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. However, the mountain gorilla family in Mgahinga (Kahungye group) is very mobile crisscrossing borders into Rwanda and this literary leaves Bwindi to be the only place to reliably track the mountain gorillas in Uganda.

Mountain Gorilla Resting in Bwindi Impenetrable National ParkTo track gorillas you must have a pre-booked gorilla tracking permit (each costs US$600 but are specially discounted in November 2015 to $350) . Since the gorilla parks are located far away from the airport you arrive from you will need transport (4x4 advisable) to reach the park. The drive from Kampala/ Entebbe to Bwindi takes about 9 hours. This means that if you are tracking gorillas in Uganda you will need at least 3 days to the gorilla trek: One day travelling to the park, another day tracking the gorilla, and the third day driving back to Kampala/ Entebbe.

To book your gorilla permit, you will need to either contact the relevant country agency to book the gorilla permit (Uganda Wildlife Authority for Uganda) or book the permits through a local tour agency like us. Please note that gorilla permits are only confirmed by paying for them in full. So, you will need to send money for the permits in full to get your confirmation ad ensure that you take care of the bank charges involved to avoid disappointment.

If you are hoping to travel in July and August 2015, be aware that most days are actually sold out and you may not be able to get the gorilla permit for the days period you wish to travel. There are however some gorilla permits cancellations. These permits are not at the Uganda Wildlife Authority but with local tour agents. We can assist our clients to get such permits when contacted.

However, for the rest of  2015, there are still plenty of spaces so you can confidently contact us now to book your space there.

If you arrange the gorilla permit on your own, please ensure that you pick it from the booking office in Kampala before travelling to Bwindi. You must present your gorilla permit and passport on the gorilla tracking day to be allowed on the gorilla trek. In case your permit is booked through a tour agent and you are taking the tour with them you may not necessarily need to think about getting the permit from them but if you are not taking the full gorilla tour with them, consider getting your permit before travelling to Bwindi.

Planning your Transport to the Gorilla Trek in Rwanda and Uganda:

You will definitely require a 4x4 vehicle to go to the gorilla in Bwindi. You need a 4x4 vehicle to navigate the rough pot-holed roads which often get tourists stuck for hours during rainy seasons. You may be able to hire a vehicle for US$100 per day excluding the fuel but including the driver costs. In Uganda’s case, Gorillas and Wildlife Safaris offers transfers for US$510 for the 3 days (including vehicle, fuel, driver allowances for 3 days tour).
Alternatively you may take public buses to a nearby town but you will definitely have to find a cab (preferably 4x4 and usually costs $100 a day without gas fuel) to ferry you to the gorilla trek trail start an back to your hotel.

You need to report to the park registration office at 7:30AM. So whatever method you choose, make sure that it is reliable  - if you don’t turn up at the appointed time you risk invalidating your gorilla tracking permit and having to pay again.

The gorilla tracking time is very unpredictable and you may as well take the entire day. So have your accommodation booked for the night after your trek as well. For this same reason also have with you a packed lunch for the day, plenty of drinking water, rainproof clothing (you are trekking through a rainforest and any day it can rain).

Planning Your Accommodation during your Gorilla Trek tour

In Uganda, the accommodation you choose will depend on the gorilla permit you book being that the available 11 gorilla families that tourists visit in Bwindi range over a wide area. Please have a look at the page www.gorillasandwildlifesafaris.com/Bwindi GorillaTourAccommodationLodgesHotelsCampsitesUganda.htm for more details about which accommodation you will need to book for each different gorilla family in Bwindi.

Hiring Porters and Walking Sticks for the Gorilla Trek

Usually there are porters for hire (at $15 each) at the park offices and walking sticks (at $5). Do not overestimate your strength; you may certainly need either or both of these. So put it in high consideration to hire one. Besides, it’s another way of giving back to the communities.

Joining your gorilla trek with other tours/ excursions

Uganda offers a variety of tours you can join onto your gorilla trek. You can choose to do these safari excursions before or after the gorilla trek. Here are a couple of the many tour options that combine gorilla treks with amazing wildlife and scenery viewing.

Uganda 4 days Gorilla tracking tour with Safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Uganda 5 days Gorilla tracking tour with Wildlife Safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Park
5 days Uganda Gorillas, Chimps Tour
5 days Gorillas trek Rwanda and Safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park Uganda
5 days Rwanda, Uganda Gorillas

6 Days Gorilla Trek tour, Kibale Chimps tracking, Wildlife BIG 5 Safaris in Queen Elizabeth National
6 days gorilla tracking, wildlife safari

7 days Uganda tour and holiday to Murchison Falls, mountain gorillas, Chimpanzees in Kibale Forest and Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable
7 days Gorillas, chimpanzee, wildlife 
7 days Uganda Gorilla Safaris
8 days Uganda Gorilla Game safari
9 days Gorillas, primates wildlife
All Inclusive 12 days Uganda Safari