Last week, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) unveiled an alternative avenue for enhancing access to the captivating mountain gorilla habitats that previously could only be accessed through physical visits. By leveraging digital technology, both Ugandans and international visitors can now utilize a mobile application for guided exploration of Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable National Parks, located in southwestern Uganda. This will enable those who are unable to take on-site visits to view mountain gorillas in their natural habitats using mobile devices.
Sam Mwanda, the Executive Director of UWA, said that individuals who want to watch the iconic creatures will have to download and subscribe to an application known as “My Gorilla Family.”
“My Gorilla Family” is an interactive app that allows subscribers to embark on virtual gorilla expeditions and trace family migrations through their mobile devices. Real-time updates, including noteworthy happenings like gorilla births, will also be communicated directly from the rangers.
Mwanda emphasized that the app, accessible to both iOS and Android users, presents a good opportunity for individuals to remotely track a gorilla family. This innovative step is one of the insights the Authority learned from the pandemic-induced lockdowns when tourism was restricted.
During the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, the two national parks were shut down to prevent potential virus transmission from humans to the gorilla population. This new innovation, according to Mwanda, is part of UWA’s endeavor to boost revenue generation, which is key to the running of these national parks.
“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. Consequently, we had to find a more strategic way to market gorillas to bring in more revenue since they are our premium product,” he said.
The application is the result of a partnership between UWA and the House of Gorilla Initiative (HoG). Proceeds arising from the initiative will be shared by the two entities.
Lilly Ajarova, CEO of the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), affirmed that, apart from financial gains, this application will bolster the country’s conservation initiatives while aligning with global trends in tourism marketing.
David Gonahasa, the co-founder of HoG, said that the innovation will create alternative avenues for funding gorilla conservation. He added that nearly a year was invested in developing the application, with cameras installed in the forest for continuous data generation for the app. The team aims to raise USD 380,000 to efficiently run the application, while the monthly subscription fee will cost $2 dollars.