For those championing a progressive view of the continent from outside its borders: show us how your passion for the continent and influence bring travellers to share in Africa’s unexplored mysteries.
MASKING UP FOR GORILLAS
OBJECTIVE: We’re on a mission to encourage travellers to wear surgical masks when visiting the mountain gorillas of Uganda and Rwanda, with the aim of eventually making it compulsory. Last year, Jacada Travel went to the Tusk conservation lecture in London in which Dr. Gladys Kalema Zikusoka of Conservation Through Public Health noted that wearing face masks can drastically reduce passing on human diseases to the gorillas. It’s not currently enforced because the governments of Uganda and Rwanda are nervous of the measure affecting tourism. However, we strongly feel that if our clients knew what a difference it made, they would be more than happy to wear a mask. We decided that the responsible thing for us to do would be to encourage our own travellers to wear a mask when gorilla tracking even if it’s not officially required; to suggest others in the industry do the same; and eventually give the tourism boards the confidence to enforce mask wearing as a rule. From the beginning of 2017, we will be providing surgical masks and making a point of informing our travellers how important it is to protect the gorillas from human diseases. We are also sending out a press release to spread the word of our initiative and encourage other companies to do the same.
RESULT: Gorillas share 98% of the same DNA as humans and infectious disease is the second most common cause of death in mountain gorillas. In 2009, a team of US researchers linked a human respiratory virus to the deaths of two mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, confirming that diseases – even a mild cold – can be passed between humans and gorillas. Wearing surgical masks when gorilla tracking is currently required in Virunga National Park in the DRC and in the Republic of Congo. Some supporting statements: ‘Wearing masks is not an inconvenience: it is a simple step to safeguard the health of critically endangered mountain gorillas.’ – Dan Bucknell, Executive Director of Tusk. ‘Wearing masks when visiting the critically endangered gorillas ensures the best protection from our human diseases.’ – Dr. Gladys Kalema Zikusoka, Founder of Conservation Through Public Health. ‘A simple human sneeze travels seven metres, and gorillas have no immunity to the bugs we routinely pick up on the plane over.’ – Jillian Miller, Executive Director of The Gorilla Organisation.
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