Uganda – This is where the savannah of East Africa meets the rainforest of Central Africa. This special encounter makes the country one of the most species-rich regions on the entire continent. Green mountain slopes, bizarre plants and loud animal roar in the treetops – a scene reminiscent of the Disney film classic Tarzan. The legend about the man in leather shorts who spent his life in the jungle probably contributes a not insignificant part to today’s gorilla hype. This article is not only about the famous black giants, but also about their little cousins, the Golden Monkeys. Find out here why you have the opportunity to experience a Tarzan moment in mini format in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
The Mgahinga Gorilla National Park covers the Ugandan area of the active Virunga volcanoes, which are part of the great African Rift Valley. The Rift Valley created the deepest lakes and highest mountains of the continent. The slopes of the volcanoes are covered with mountain rain forest and have a particularly varied flora and fauna due to the differences in altitude. As the name of the park suggests, there is also a group of mountain gorillas among the inhabitants.
The former game reserve only received its status as a national park shortly before the turn of the millennium. It owes its existence above all to the German zoologist and behavioural scientist Klaus-Jürgen Sucker. Like Dian Fossey in the neighbouring Virunga National Park, Sucker began with the introduction of strictly regulated gorilla tourism. He also worked to prevent poaching and other illegal activities in the park. In just a few years, the population of the great apes doubled. It is the only park in the world whose size has been expanded over time to protect the habitat of mountain gorillas.
In addition to the mountain gorillas, the Golden Monkeys could also be protected. Although the golden monkeys lived in the region before the first national parks were established, they were only given due attention in the 1980s. Shortly afterwards, the World Conservation Union put them on the red list of endangered species. While Rwanda and Uganda have populations of about 3,000 and 1,000 animals respectively, the population in the Congolese region is unclear due to ongoing poaching.
It is the golden-red shimmering fur of the small primates, which brought them the name. A single hair consists of up to seven alternating shades. The different strong colourings on the back, forehead and cheeks allow rangers to identify individual animals. In addition, there are deviations in noses, ears, eyes and head-form. A differentiation of the animals is important, since information about age, maturity and population form the basis for the development of protective measures.
The Golden Monkeys live exclusively in the area of the Virunga volcanoes in East Africa. The area is located in the three-country corner of Uganda, Rwanda and the Republic of Congo. The endemic way of life of the monkeys makes them one of the rarest species in the world. They live in polygamous groups of up to 100 members. While they cover long distances in search of food during the day, they always return to their nests of interwoven bamboo bushes in the evening. Especially amazing: The babies of the golden monkeys are born with full fur and open eyes!
The Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is next to the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda the only park in the world where visitors can observe not only the impressive silverback but also the golden monkeys on a tracking tour lasting several hours. It is a unique experience when the small, charismatic primates chase through the trees. By the way, visitors must also present a permit here. However, at around 100 US dollars, this permit is much cheaper than the one for gorilla tracking.