Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda Now Draw Big Bucks

From tourists who can afford $1.5K to spend an hour near them
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 24, 2022 12:10 PM CDT
Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda Now Draw Big Bucks
   (Getty Images / Dennis Stogsdill)

(Newser) – The "gorillas in the mist" as Dian Fossey famously called them are doing far better now than when the world was introduced to them. CBS News checks in on the mountain gorillas of Rwanda, which numbered 254 when Fossey arrived in the country in 1967. There are now more than 600 of them, with another 400 across the border in Uganda. Primatologist Tara Stoinski, who leads the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, attributes the turnaround to "extreme conservation" and high-priced tourism. Trackers with the Fossey Fund head into the forest every single day. "We know every gorilla in all of the families that we monitor. We check and make sure every one of them is okay. If one looks ill, we'll notify the veterinarians."

Stoinski says that while the population has grown, the park in which they live—Volcanoes National Park—hasn't. There are plans to expand it 23% in size, in part by relocating villages. There's a financial incentive to do so, for both the government and Rwandans. "One of, if not the top source of, foreign revenue [in the country] is tourism to see the gorillas," Stoinski explains. Guides take tourists into the park daily to see them, in an operation that is tightly regulated by the government: a max of eight people at a time, for one hour, at a cost of $1,500 per person. Ten percent of the revenue is passed on to the communities around the park, giving them a major financial incentive to abandon all poaching.

Separately, Afar Magazine talks with Stoinski about the new Ellen DeGeneres Campus that opened in June near the park's entrance and will give the Fossey Fund the space and facilities it needs to train future conservationists and conduct critical research. The campus is a gift from DeGeneres' wife, Portia De Rossi, who in 2018 announced she would fund its construction in honor of DeGeneres' 61st birthday. As for how it came about, De Rossi said that in her early days of meeting DeGeneres, DeGeneres told her Fossey had been her hero since childhood. (Read more on the campus, and on the mountain gorillas' resurgence.)

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