Introduced in October 2022 by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), a branch of the government, “GorillaGram“ is a new platform available to researchers and scientists. The platform seeks to gather photos and videos from the families of mountain gorillas living in Rwanda and, according to the latest reports, it will help scientists to have an increased understanding of the animals’ behavior and how they act in group. In short, “GorillaGram“ is an Instagram aggregator, pulling photos from Instagram based on tags used under each photo or video.
Michaella Rugwizangoga, Chief Tourism Officer of the RDB said that each gorilla family in the park has a hashtag so visitors can become “citizen scientists“, capturing photos of the gorillas’ recorded behavior, changes to the group, interactions of interest, and even alerts to any injuries or concerns.
The data location of each family is not recorded since the hashtags aren’t geotags, making sure that the animals are well protected. Additionally, the park only issues 80 ranger-guided tracking permits per day, ensuring that the increased data won’t lead to overtourism or threaten the gorillas. No one is allowed to visit the gorillas without a guide.
1. Gorilla families
There are currently 12 families and each will have its social media pages. They include Agashya, Amahoro, Hirwa, Igisha, Isimbi, Kwisanga, Kwitonda, Muhoza, Noheli, Sabyinyo, Susa and Umubano, according to New Times Rwanda. Rwanda is home to over a third of the remaining populations of mountain gorillas in the world, and there have been intentional efforts invested in conserving and protecting them such that over recent decades, the population has grown to over 1,063 individuals, up from just 480 in 2010.
2. Gorilla trekking
Critics of this new initiative may call it a public relations stunt, questioning the real value of using social media when considering the protection of wild gorillas. The fact is that revenue generated from gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park amounted to $11 million within the first six months of 2022, according to New Times Rwanda. No doubt that this revenue based on tourism has greatly contributed to the development of Rwanda’s economy. Data from the World Bank suggests that Rwanda currently aspires to Middle Income Country status by 2035 and High-Income Country status by 2050.