In our increasingly technological world, a team from Uganda created a mobile app that raises funds for mountain gorilla conservation and local communities, while allowing users to virtually engage with Uganda's 20 habituated gorilla family groups. "My Gorilla Family" launched in February after winning the Beyond Tourism in Africa Innovation Challenge, a program launched in 2020 and supported by WWF Regional Office for Africa, Africa Leadership University's School of Wildlife Conservation, and the Luc Hoffman Institute, to foster new income-generating ideas beyond tourism for both local communities and wildlife conservation in Africa.
The team was one of 15 winners out of more than 300 applicants and received a place in the African Leadership University's incubator program to help participants develop their ideas into investment-ready businesses.
David Gonahasa and Fidelis Kanyamunyu, both from Uganda and specialists in the technology and tourism industries, respectively, created the subscription-based app to support mountain gorilla conservation through tech and local community e-commerce. Users can experience virtual treks, view updates and video content of the mountain gorillas, and engage with the gorillas and rangers in a variety of other ways.
"This inspiring innovative app not only shows how Africa is finding new ways to finance conservation beyond revenues from tourism, but it is also a fun way to interact virtually with this incredible species for all who don't have the opportunity to visit them," said Bas Huijbregts, director of African species conservation at WWF-US.
Tourist trekking is the main source of funding for mountain gorilla conservation and, in general, many communities across Africa rely on the tourism industry for livelihood and economic opportunities. Unfortunately, this industry was one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and many people lost their jobs, with a disproportionate impact on people in remote and rural areas. The pandemic highlighted the vulnerability of communities that rely solely on tourism for their livelihoods and local economy. In this regard, the Beyond Tourism Challenge aimed to help incubate new ideas for revenue models beyond tourism for wildlife-dependent communities in Africa.