By Spy Uganda
Kampala: Tucked on the common border with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is host to the endangered golden monkeys, a new tourist attraction.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park located in the Virunga Mountains compassing three in-active volcanoes, namely Mount Muhabura, Mount Gahinga, and Mount Sabyinyo and being part of the Nile River watershed area is where “gold meets silver,” a tourism marketing catchphrase meaning a place where the golden monkeys coexist with the mountain gorilla silverbacks making it a home to the endangered mountain gorillas.
“Golden monkeys are special in that they have an outstanding colour that is near to the gold colour, they are unique in that you can only track them from the Virunga Massif,” Joyleen Tugume, a ranger-guided at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) revealed.
High up the ridges of the volcanic Mount Muhabura, which is part of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, the golden monkeys feed on largely bamboo shoots. They live in troops of about 100, led by an Alpha male, according to UWA.
Uganda has one habituated troop of about 60 golden monkeys and another group of about 80 monkeys is also being habituated as the country builds new tourist attractions.
Golden monkeys are endangered species. According to UWA, tourists who come to see the mountain gorillas, which are the country’s main tourist attractions, can also track them.
Before tracking the monkeys, at the park gate, standard operating procedures like hand sanitizing, face mask-wearing and social distancing are practised in a bid to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 to the monkeys.
About 300 meters before reaching the golden monkeys, visitors are hand sanitized again and urged to keep their face masks on. Visitors are also not allowed to get less than 10 meters away from the animals.
Tourism is one of Uganda’s major foreign exchange earners, bringing in about 1.6 billion U.S. dollars annually, according to the ministry of finance figures.
Although the sector has been worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the government is optimistic that it will pick up as the country continues to ease the lockdown restrictions.
Abiaz Rwamwiri, director at Africa Wild Explorations, a tour agency revealed that once the country’s international airport opens up on Oct. 1, as planned by the government, tourists may start flocking in and there are some confirmed tours scheduled for next year.
About Mghinga Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park sits high in the clouds, at an altitude of between 2,227m and 4,127m. As its name suggests, it was created to protect the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit its dense forests, and it is also an important habitat for the endangered golden monkey.
As well as being important for wildlife, the park also has a huge cultural significance, in particular for the indigenous Batwa pygmies. This tribe of hunter-gatherers was the forest’s “first people”, and their ancient knowledge of its secrets remains unrivalled.
Mgahinga’s most striking features are its three conical, extinct volcanoes, part of the spectacular Virunga Range that lies along the border region of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda.
Mgahinga forms part of the much larger Virunga Conservation Area which includes adjacent parks in these countries. The volcanoes’ slopes contain various ecosystems and are biologically diverse, and their peaks provide a striking backdrop to this gorgeous scenery.