Saturday, February 12, 2011

Monkey business

A cute little golden monkey kind of critter
 For many, the south west of Uganda means one thing: mountain gorillas. The majestic mountain gorilla is certainly an impressive beast and as an endangered species it is thought that only around 1000 now remain. They have never been successfully bred in captivity and they cannot be found on zoos. Therefore if you want to see these impressive creatures you’re going to have to take a trip to Bwindi National Park or the  Virungas, a set of 3 adjoining national parks found in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The upside is that you get the chance to see these incredible animals playing, eating and interacting right in front of you. The downside? A trek that can take between 1 and 8 hours before you even find the gorilla group and the cost, a whopping $500.

Recently rumours have once more resurfaced that the cost of trekking the mountain gorillas is going to be increased to an eye watering $750. Yes ok, these are extremely rare creatures and this is the only way you are going to get to see them, but $500 is just extortionate, particularly considering the fact that it currently costs East Africans just $100. I certainly do not begrudge this discounted rate, in fact I think measures taken to encourage locals to visit their national parks and appreciate their natural assets make complete sense and should be supported. However $100 is still very high for someone on an average wage in the south west of Uganda. I just think that the cost of permits should be lowered for everyone as I can’t see how the price can be justified.

Just munchin' some luncheon
At this moment in time you may well be thinking that the answer is obvious (and that I’m a bit dim-witted). That it’s a simple matter of supply and demand. As I’ve mentioned above the mountain gorillas are extremely rare and therefore you are paying for their scarcity. But this is where a little anomaly occurs, in addition to the mountain gorilla, the Virungas are also home to the golden monkey. The golden monkey is a sub-species of the blue monkey and they are only found in the dormant volcano range that straddles Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. Whilst they are not quite as rare as the mountain gorilla, it is thought there are approximately 3000-4000 living in the Albertine Rift Valley, they are also classified as an endangered species.

So why is it that to track the golden monkeys costs only $50 whilst to track the gorillas costs 10 times more?  Having seen the golden monkeys I can verify that it also includes a hike up steep mountainside (although thankfully not for 8 hours) and you get to spend an hour with them just as you do the gorillas. All I can assume is that the price hike for gorilla trekking was implemented and people were still willing to pay. The trouble is where will it stop? To me it just seems like monkey business, but apparently, it pays.


  1. Hey :) Just letting you know I linked your shiz over at my blog -

    I would have emailed but couldn't find your address.


  2. Wow, thank you kindly, very much appreciated. Having just checked it out, I'm rather liking your blog too - stirling work ^_^