The Uganda Wildlife Authority plans to introduce online gorilla tracking as a new initiative aimed at the global demand for conservation tourism.
For a minimum donation of $1, subscribers will be able track the movements of individual gorillas through a custom-made Web site. Strategically placed cameras in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest will stream video footage of gorillas to audiences worldwide.
The service – scheduled to begin this month – will also allow users to “befriend a gorilla” on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.
“The project aims to bring attention to the plight of gorillas,” said Lillian Nsubuga, a spokeswoman for the Uganda Wildlife Authority, “and any money raised will be put towards conservation efforts.”
Gorilla tourism raised $225 million in Uganda last year, providing 37 percent of the country’s national annual earnings from tourism, and more than half of the wildlife authority’s internally generated revenue.
The online tracking initiative hopes to add an additional $700,000 a year.
Traditional gorilla tracking excursions – in which tourists visit Uganda’s national parks and embark on hikes into to the forest – cost upwards of $500 per person, and visitors are strictly limited to small groups in order to minimise the contact between gorillas and humans.
Permits for such journeys are often fully booked months in advance.
“With this new online scheme,” Ms. Nsubuga said, “it is now possible to follow the gorillas from the comfort of your home.”
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