|Town/Region||Kahuzi Biega National Park|
|Country||Congo, the Democratic Republic of the|
|Date||9 Jul 2015|
The Kahuzi-Biega National Park (KBNP) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in eastern DRC. It has exceptionally high biodiversity and is one of the most important areas in the Albertine Rift Valley. The park is one of the most important sites for the Grauer's Gorilla subspecies. In the past two decades, the park’s natural habitats have deteriorated and its effectiveness as a protected area has been severely compromised. Gorillas have been hunted intensively and have nearly become extinct as a result of extensive armed conflicts. Villages have been built within the park boundaries and many of its natural habitats have been converted to agriculture. Illegal mining and poaching is common in the park. With gradual signs of peace and stability in the horizon, there is now a unique window of opportunity to save the remaining natural habitats and protect the remaining gorilla populations from extinction.
Our project constitutes an essential component in our plan to address the threats faced by gorillas and other wildlife in the park and to promote conservation by developing sustainable community-based ecotourism. Through this project we will habituate a group of gorillas to human visitors. This group will constitute a focal tourist attraction in the park. Simultaneously we are working with local communities in order to:
Successful habituation of gorillas to human observers usually requires several years to complete. We estimate that a group of gorillas could potentially be visited by tourists as early as late 2016 or 2017. Groups of tourists visiting the habituated gorillas in KBNP are projected to generate additional income for the Park Authority. Currently, conservation efforts are limited due to shortage of resources. Additional income will enable the Park Authority to hire additional staff members, including rangers, trackers, and researchers and increase the scope and quality of management, monitoring and enforcement activities.
We expect that an increase in incoming tourism will open new employment and financial opportunities for local communities – various services (transportation, tour guides), catering and accommodations for tourists, sales of souvenirs and cultural activities.
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