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Gorilla Tracking Goes Online in Uganda

The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) plans to launch online gorilla tracking. According to the authority it is due to a global demand for conservation tourism and promotion of primate tourism. Through the www.friendagorilla .org, gorilla lovers would have chance to befriend any of the seven habituated gorilla families at $1.

Tourism state minister, Serapio Rukundo, said the campaign would "lift Uganda to its 1960s position as one of Africa's most popular tourism destinations." The website will have sections like Geo-Track, where one can track gorillas using actual global positioning system coordinates that the authority's gorilla trackers will be provided with regularly.

Strategically placed cameras in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest will stream video footage of gorillas to audiences worldwide. This service which is set for launch on September 26, will also allow users to "befriend a gorilla" on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. Gorillas share 98.4% of their genetic material with human beings.

Gorillas in Uganda are confined in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Park. There are about 340 mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Park of the remaining 720 mountain gorillas wordwide.

Gorilla tourism raised $225m in Uganda last year, providing 37% of the country's national annual earnings from tourism, and more than half of the wildlife authority's internally generated revenue.

The online tracking initiative hopes to add an additional $700,000 a year according to Moses Mapesa, the UWA executive director.

However, apart from the Gorilla and the revenues it generated for Uganda last year, tourism stakeholders feel the whole package of the seven wonders should as well be strengthened and marketed to the rest of the world. They are; the Rwenzori Mountains, the Kazinga Channel at Queen Elizabeth National Park, the Kibale Forest-Chimpanzee Sanctuary, the Source of the Nile and the Mt. Elgon Caldera.

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