The Volcanoes National Park has several gorilla families that have been habituated for scientific research. Several of these gorilla families were habituated by the late Dr. Dian Fossey and her teams. Research groups are normally not open to tourists and they are followed on a daily basis by researchers and trackers of the Karisoke Research Centre. The researchers spend more time with the mountain gorillas but they do not ordinarily approach the great apes as close as tourists do. The monitoring of these mountain gorillas helps alot in conservation. The researchers conduct a long term study of the gentle giants and today the Virunga Massif brags as one of the best studied area in the world.
The research groups in the Volcanoes National Park are :
- Muhoza Gorilla Family
- Igisha Gorilla Family
- Kureba Gorilla Family
- Ntambara Gorilla Family
- Noheli Gorilla Family
- Mutobo Gorilla Family
- Musirikale Gorilla Family
- Kuryama group (hosting about 15 gorillas )
- Ntambara group (with 11gorillas)
- Isabukuru group (with 11 gorillas)
- Inshuti group (with 6 gorillas)
- Titus group (with 6 gorillas)
- Urugamba group ( 6 gorillas)
Importance of Gorilla Research
The study of mountain gorillas has been ongoing for a long period of time. Since the times of Dian Fossey, research has been done to understand more about the life and behavior of mountain gorillas. During the hard times of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide, research was put to a standstill. However, by 1999, research resumed. Researchers from the Karisoke Research Centre were escorted by the military to check on the work of Dian Fossey.
A lot has been attained in research. The number of gorillas has increased and tourism has also been guided by strict rules and regulations that aim at ensuring the survival of the great apes.
The Research enables accurate identification of animals and the close study of their behavior so that they are habituated for the gorilla trekking experience. The tracking expedition is one of the avenues where revenues to carry out conservation works is generated.
The gorilla research also allows easy access to veterinary interventions in case of disease outbreaks. Through these scientific researches, the experts are able to discover new diseases that affect the gorillas at large. This results into making further studies about these scourges and finding remedies to treat them thus saving the gorillas from dying helplessly.
The gorilla scientific survey allows identifying the threats affecting the gorillas in a certain locality. Apart from the natural known threats like loss of habitats due to climate change and diseases, there are others like poaching, deforestation, and human-animal conflicts which are alleviated right away when discovered.
The Ugly Side of Gorilla Research
Gorilla research is normally looked at as a way of knowing the behaviors of the gorillas and getting them habituated for gorilla tourism. However, habituating more than 70% of the gorillas for tourism will discredit tourism as a tool for conservation because a larger number of gorillas will be exposed to human presence. Exposure to humans will increase the risk of disease transmission.
Gorillas being exposed to humans may involve stress, thus generating negative experiences for the gorillas.
Stress and other effects such as behavioral changes, reduced reproductive success, and ecological disturbance may compromise the welfare of gorillas.