Gorilla Friendly Tourism Certification
Mountain gorillas represent a culturally, ecologically and economically important resource to the three range countries where they occur, as well as holding significant value for tourists globally. Yet while tourism has provided an economic incentive to preserve mountain gorillas and their habitat to date, they remain critically endangered and are extremely vulnerable to disease transmission, armed conflict, poaching, illegal trade in live infants, and habitat degradation.
In addition, tourists have high expectations about their ‘bucket list’ gorilla trekking experience due to a variety of circumstances ranging from social media depictions to the cost of travel. In response to this The Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN), in close partnership with the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP – http://www.igcp.org), a coalition of Flora and Fauna International and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and through a 3-year consultative stakeholder process with the mountain gorilla range state governments, communities, and the private sector, is piloting a first-of-its kind species-focused Gorilla Friendly™ tourism certification in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The vision for Gorilla Friendly™ tourism certification is that it would provide the opportunity for continuous improvement of best practices so that even existing excellent tour operations can be improved and recognized. In addition, Gorilla Friendly™ certification will serve as a benchmark for best practices that non-certified operations can measure themselves against and ideally work towards gaining certification themselves, thus providing the possibility of improving standards for all tour and hospitality operations raising the bar and initiating an important conversation in the range states.