Tweeting Ugandan gorillas make friends online

Sat Sep 26, 2009 2:22pm EDT
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By Hereward Holland

BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST, Uganda (Reuters Life!) - Lurking deep in the mist-glazed forests of east Africa, Uganda's mountain gorillas are preparing to "tweet" for their survival.

With the launch on Saturday of the "Friend a Gorilla" campaign, human fans will soon be able to follow the everyday drama of one of the few remaining 720 mountain gorillas online, far from the red ants, mud and tropical rain of their habitats.

When the site goes live, users will be able to access videos, pictures and rangers' blogs through websites like Facebook and Twitter, said Moses Mapesa Wafula, head of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

They will also be able to follow their new friends via satellite tracking.

"By paying one dollar to Friend a Gorilla, everybody contributes to the conservation of this species," Wafula said.

Not everybody can afford the $500 price tag for a real gorilla trek but the fiber-optic tentacles of globalization will make it possible for anyone to watch a mother grooming her children, juvenile males fighting for dominance or even feel the rush of being charged by a 500 pound (225 kg) silverback male.

Tourist receipts represent Uganda's second largest foreign exchange earner.

Organizers say the campaign is the first time social networking has been harnessed for conservation and hope it will generate $100,000 in the first three months and a further $350,000 within the first year.   Continued...

<p>A mountain gorilla, a member of the Mubare gorilla group, searches for food in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda July 2, 2009. REUTERS/Molly Riley</p>