With fewer than 1000 individuals living on earth today, mountain gorillas are arguably the most sought after primate species. They inhabit the eastern region of Africa in the famed Virunga ranges. They are found only in 4 national parks in the world, including Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda, Volcanoes and Virunga national parks in Rwanda and D.R. Congo respectively.
Uganda alone is home to up to 50% of the total population of mountain gorillas, making it the best destination to conduct gorilla trekking among the other two countries. Uganda also has the most number of gorilla families, up to 18 families, Rwanda and D.R. Congo with twelve and ten families respectively.
However much this activity is one of the best wildlife experiences, it is highly regulated by the responsible government bodies, in order to keep it unique and sustainable. Among the gorilla trekking regulations is age restrictions.
As a matter of fact only children of 15 years and above are allowed to trek these endangered primates. This applies to all the gorilla destinations; Uganda, Rwanda and D.R. Congo.
Why the 15 years restriction
The mountain gorillas naturally dwell within impenetrable and mountainous forests which may be difficult for children below 15 years to trek through. The activity is quite adventurous and sometimes strenuous depending on the day-to-day movements of the gorillas.
Children above 15 years are generally considered to be quite mature than 14 years and below, and so their rate of attention, understanding and adhering to the set rules and regulations is high. This is not the case with 14 year olds who are playful and their level of understating is still low. Mountain gorillas are humble but tend to be aggressive when irritated; therefore, trekkers have to be with a mature level of understanding and cautiousness.
However, there are exceptions when arrangements are made and children below the age of 15 are accepted. Such arrangements are only made for children who are at least 14 years or months to making 15. These children ought to measure at least 16 inches in height.
To be accepted, an operator or a ground handler writes to the government authority responsible for issuing gorilla permits, and lets them know about the need for a 14 year old to engage in trekking. It all depends on the reason one gives, and the authority will issue a letter of acceptance, allowing a “minor” to go gorilla trekking.