The gazetted volcanic slopes are largely covered with afromontane forests. These forests are a habitat to so many species that are unique to these forests among them being the Mountain Gorilla. There are also several species of birds, primates, large mammals, reptiles, insects, plants and shrubs that are unique to these forests.
The Mountain Gorillas are distributed in four game parks in the three countries, that is, Mgahinga National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, Virunga Volcano Range in Democratic Republic of Congo and Park des Volcanoes in Rwanda. The last population census estimated the existing Mountain Gorilla population at 790 individual.
In spite of several conservation efforts by authorities and several organizations, the Mountain Gorilla still faces several threats to its existence. The biggest threat is habitat loss. Forests are cleared on a daily basis to meet man's growing needs, to build structures and cultivation. While authorities have put in a lot of efforts to protect these habitats, humans have made this harder and in the past have gone to the extent of setting these forests ablaze to show their resentment.
The Mountain Gorillas are also threatened by poachers who are constantly hunting them down for a number of reasons including killing them for prestige while others are sold abroad to be displayed in zoos while others are used as specimen in scientific research in laboratories. The insurgencies in the region have also seen a number of gorillas killed or displaced from their natural habitats.
As one of the moves to conserve these endangered apes, the wildlife authorities in the three countries opened up the parks for tour activities especially gorilla tracking. Some of the revenue generated is then used to benefit the local communities around the parks. The locals had been seeing the gorillas and the formation of the game parks a threat. They could no longer access these forests which were a source of their livelihood and on several occasions set the forests on fire or hunted them down and killed them as a way of resenting the whole idea of gorillas. Now that the locals see direct benefits from the gorillas, their attitude and actions towards the gorillas have relatively improved. So when you purchase a gorilla permit, you are not only contributing to the betterment of the locals but are also indirectly helping conserve these great apes.
Humans can still endanger these shy giants during gorilla tracking in some ways. The wildlife authorities have now come up with a list of rules to follow during gorilla tracking as another measure to preserve these gorillas.
For instance gorillas are susceptible to human illness, so no gorilla tracker is allowed to track when ill. Humans are also required to keep at least seven meters from the gorillas.