The pandemic Coronavirus Disease COVID-19, was first reported from Wuhan in the people’s Republic of China on 31st.December.2019, the outbreak has now spread to all continents of the world and currently many countries have been affected. On 21st .March.2020, the Ministry of Health confirmed Uganda’s 1st case of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).
Since then, the novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) has Continued to paralyze human healthy, business and economy of Uganda and the entire world. Ugandans including conservationist have raised concern and are now racing to understand and be able to manage COVID-19. The major concern is on how the virus is spreading between humans and where is the position of our closest relatives especially the endangered Mountain Gorillas, Chimpanzees and, other wildlife against the pandemic. Tourism stakeholders and conservationist have raised concern on the safety of the endangered Mountain Gorillas and other wildlife which are prone to this respiratory illness and are frequently visited by foreign travelers especially those who come to Uganda, Rwanda and DR Cong for their gorilla safari tours from countries like China, United Kingdom, Germany, USA, Italy Spain and many others that are already affected with the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Although Tourism is the main income earning to Uganda, Response have come up from the government and other tourism organization that are responsible for Conservation such as Uganda wildlife Authority, to set up Guidelines (SOPs) and measure to help stop the spread of the infection of Corona virus to the gorillas and protect other wild animals in Uganda national parks.
The following are some of the measures set by the conservation authorities to protect Gorillas and other animals against COVID-19.
In order to strengthen Uganda’s preparedness in the fight and containment of the new corona virus COVID-19, the health ministry has advised travelers from high risk countries to undergo a 14 days’ self-isolation and avoid contact with others to prevent the spread of the virus. This applies to any individual who has been in close contact with a person confirmed to be having coronavirus disease.
All travelers coming from countries affected by the corona virus disease should follow guidance given by the health workers at the airport and other boarder entry point.
In order to reduce the risk of people spreading coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) to Mountain Gorillas and other wildlife in Protected areas like national parks, the Uganda Tourism Board has recommended that intended Visitors to Uganda for gorilla trekking safaris, especially those from affected countries should maintain their bookings but delay their travel until a later date when the disease is globally contained.
Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) which is the Organization responsible for protection and conservation of all wildlife in the 10 National parks and 12 wildlife reserves, it’s at the same time the Government organization responsible for issuing Park entry permits, Selling Gorilla trekking permits and Chimpanzee tracking permits. Therefore, it’s a cognizant of the fact that due to the above measure set by Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), some tourists may find it necessary to change their planned travel plan. The authority for that case reviewed its reservation, booking and cancellation guidelines by allowing provisions for travelers, travel agents to reschedule their already booked trekking permits.
Conservation Organizations, like International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP), Conservation Through public health (CTPH), Diana Fossey Gorilla Fund work tirelessly to Conserve and protect Lowland and Mountain Gorillas. The mountain Gorillas are endangered and only survive only two places and in four national parks in the whole world. These places are Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park Rwanda and Virunga National Park in DR Congo. These organizations have come up with measure to save the gorillas against Corona virus and other communicable diseases such as;
Training & sensitizing park staff about the spread and prevention of coronavirus and other diseases like Ebola, scabies and many more.
Limiting the time that people spend when they come to visit gorillas and off course the distance that someone should position him or herself while taking pictures of the gorillas.
Maximum of 8 visitors are to be maintained for each gorilla family per day to avoid congestion and must be well positioned while viewing and taking pictures.
Distributing infrared thermometers to measure temperatures of people who monitor gorillas in the parks like ranger trackers, wardens, Guides and daily visitors who are permitted to come and do gorilla trekking activity.
For any successful and enjoyable Safari in Uganda and any other country, a traveler must be in good health in order to avoid transmitting coronavirus to gorillas or any other animals. Visitors must be in good health themselves. Therefore, the following measures must be done to protect oneself against Coronavirus disease;