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Ugandan gorillas join Facebook

KAMPALA, Uganda, Sept 3 – Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) is developing a Facebook page for the country’s most treasured wildlife – its mountain gorillas.

At the end of September, the wildlife authority plans to introduce the largest-ever family of captive gorillas into the wild. They\’re hoping to raise funds around the event by allowing Web-surfing wildlife fans to track the animals on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. Those doing the tracking will be able to get updates and watch live-streaming video from cameras set up in the forest.

The Ugandan authorities say funds raised would go toward more rangers and more land to secure the gorilla\’s habitat.

The decision to catch the world’s attention by putting their endangered mountain gorillas online was mooted by the UWA marketing and PR team when it attended an E-Tourism Africa seminar in Kampala in May, 2009.

Uganda Wildlife Authority PR Manager Lillian Nsubuga, who attended the seminar, outlined the plans for the gorillas online: “The site will provide profiles of the individual gorillas and will give information on the age, behaviour and updates of the gorilla’s social interaction. Through geo-tracking and GPS, you’ll be able to get information about new births within the family and we will also have a conservation element to show how the gorilla’s habitat should be protected. We will also include general tourism information for visitors to Uganda.”

The site will be launched on September 26.

Damian Cook, the CEO of E-Tourism Africa is pleased that the region’s tourism sector is beginning to embrace social networking and digital media.

“During our recent East African seminar road show- we spent two days with tourism managers and stakeholders in Uganda- holding training seminars on e-commerce, bookings and reservations and online marketing. We discussed the use of social networking sites and new media to increase public interest in tourist attractions and to let the online community take up your message and spread the message far and wide,” Mr Cook said.

He continued: “I am delighted that UWA is going to utilise Facebook. Following the E-tourism seminar, I have already seen a large number of tour operators, lodges, airlines and hotels across East Africa; begin writing and updating blogs, and using Twitter and Face Book to market their companies. I am sure with the fibre optic cable now in the region this number will only dramatically increase,” said Cook.

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Already the online media community has been buzzing about the online gorilla story, with popular Social Media Guide Mashable discussing the idea- saying “the idea is cute, especially if you’re the type that devours animal documentaries and want to know more about the lifestyle of gorillas.”

The E-Tourism CEO, said the online gorillas were a great example to other African countries to market their wildlife online.

“There is nothing to stop Kenya doing something similar with lions, elephants or any other group of animals. This simple idea, put into practice, shows the power of online marketing and how easy a destination can engage with the online community and generate interest, support, discussion and business,” said Damian Cook

Henry Okecho, Chairman of the Association of Ugandan Tour Operators said:  “We thank E-Tourism Africa for these seminars and it is great to see some of the ideas coming to fruition- it’s encouraging to see UWA thinking out of the box.”

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