Introduced this month, the GorillaGram programme helps save the endangered gorillas of Rwanda via Instagram
Most of us would give our eye teeth to see a mountain gorilla in the wild. Rwanda is the place to go, especially the country’s famous Volcanoes National Park. But it’s not that easy. For one, getting to Rwanda and then on a specialised tour is expensive, and getting to the gorilla families living within the park is a strenuous trip, which involves hiking for many hours through the jungle. All of which is fitting for such a bucket-list type of experience, but not great for everyone who wants to but cannot IRL.
There are 12 mountain gorilla families living in the depths of Volcanoes National Park, and, of course, travellers and wildlife enthusiasts lucky enough to find them take lots of photographs and share them on Instagram. Now, a new programme set up by Visit Rwanda, the Rwanda Development Board and Volcanoes National Park will ensure that those posts will help keep the endangered great apes alive.
Introduced just this month, GorillaGram is an Instagram aggregator that pulls photos from Instagram based on the tags that people use under each photograph or video. It works as a new platform helping researchers and scientists; visitors become citizen scientists when they capture and tag photographs of the gorillas. Each of the 12 families in the park has its own hashtag. Revealed Michaella Rugwizangoga, Chief Tourism Officer of the Rwanda Development Board, each of these photographs, tagged in this way, will become a record of the gorillas’ “behaviour, changes to the group, interactions of interest, and even alerts to any injuries or concerns.”
GorillaGram will also allow travellers to keep abreast of the lives of the gorilla families – called troupes – they had found in the park after their visit, following them on Instagram, and building on the connection they will undoubtedly have made with the largest primates in the world.
The tags are purposefully kept as simple hashtags specific to each troupe, rather than geotags, in order to keep location data hidden.
Gorilla enthusiasts can only visit with a guide, and only 80 ranger-guided tracking permits are issued each day, which ensures that the gorillas are not impacted by overtourism. Once the guided group finds a troupe, the guide will help them use the appropriate tag; additional checks are in place to ensure that the tags are used accurately to not inadvertently skew the research data.