Foreign visitors and Ugandans can now track Mountain Gorillas through a mobile app-UWA

August 21, 2023

In the past, visitors had to physically visit the Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwestern Uganda to see the Mountain Gorillas. But this week, Uganda Wildlife Authority(UWA) unveiled another option using digital technology to reach those that may not be able to physically visit the Parks.

Sam Mwanda, the UWA Executive Director said those wishing to have a glimpse of the iconic Mountain Gorilla will have to subscribe to an application known as “My Gorilla Family”

The “My Gorilla Family” application will offer an interactive portal where subscribers can virtually access daily gorilla excursions and track family migrations using their cell phones. They will also receive real-time updates on special events, such as new births, from the rangers.

He said the application available on iOS and Android phone users offers what he described as an unprecedented opportunity for individuals to virtually track a gorilla family. The new innovation according to Mwanda was out of some of the lessons the authority learned from the Covid-19 lockdown.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, visitors to the two National parks were restricted for fear that the visiting humans would pass the virus to the Gorillas. He says the new innovation is part of the efforts by the Authority to generate more revenue to run the national parks.

According to Mwanda, the application is a result of a public-private partnership between UWA and the House of Gorilla Initiative (HoG).   The proceeds will be shared between the two entities.

He added that this application is expected to increase the revenue mobilized from gorilla tourism, as it will be more widely spread and convenient for a larger number of people.

“The gorillas contribute up to 70 percent of our revenue collections. Despite collecting up to 120 billion shillings in total, we do not have enough money. Therefore, we had to find a more strategic way to market gorillas to bring in more revenue since they are our premium product,” he said.

Uganda is home to half of the world’s remaining population of gorillas, and they have long been a major tourist attraction in the protected areas.

Lilly Ajarova, the Chief Executive Officer of the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), said apart from generating revenue, the application will improve the country’s conservation efforts and keep up with global trends in tourism marketing.

Uganda’s indigenous tech-meets-conservation initiative showcases humanity’s role in safeguarding nature. It demonstrates Uganda’s commitment to biodiversity preservation and creates an intentional community dedicated to saving this endangered species and its habitat.

David Gonahasa, the co-founder of HoG, stated that the innovation aims to find alternative funding for gorilla conservation. He believes that more people will be on board through this app, leading to increased collections. He added that it took up to one year to develop the app.

According to Gonahasa, cameras have been installed in the forests to capture the data required to consistently feed information to the application. He also mentioned that they are aiming to raise USD 380,000 to ensure the efficient functioning of the application, and the subscription fee is 2 dollars per month.

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