Born Free’s new virtual reality app takes users on a Gorilla Safari in the heart of Africa
International wildlife charity, Born Free Foundation, has launched its first virtual reality app – Gorilla Safari VR – taking wildlife-lovers on a fascinating, immersive journey deep into the heart of the African jungle to meet the world’s largest primate, the critically endangered Eastern Lowland Gorilla.
Gorilla Safari VR, led by world-renowned conservationist and Born Free Wildlife Consultant, Ian Redmond OBE, and John Kahekwa, founder of the Pole Pole Foundation and winner of the Tusk 2016 Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa, starts at Born Free’s international headquarters in southeast England. Users are then transported to the lush, green rainforests of Kahuzi-Biega National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There they meet Chimanuka, the silverback leader of a group of 36 gorillas, learn some of the finer points of ‘gorilla etiquette’ and find out how they can join in the efforts to protect these magnificent vegetarians.
Created in partnership with www.vEcotourism.org, Gorilla Safari VR features full-spherical 360-degree panoramas with embedded still images, ambient audio and short video clips.
The free app is available for both iOS and Android, and can be used with VR headsets or hand-held on smartphones and tablets.
Born Free Foundation Wildlife Consultant, Ian Redmond OBE, said: “Meeting gorillas in their natural habitat is a wonderful, often deeply moving experience. With this cutting-edge technology everyone can experience some of the excitement and, we hope, feel more inspired to help protect such species and their globally important habitat. The Congo Basin forest plays an important role in rainfall regulation and carbon sequestration so it is in all our interests to make sure gorillas thrive – they are among the most important #GardenersoftheForest.”
vEcotourism Director, Mark Laxer, is delighted with the collaboration. He added: “Innovative educational experiences using virtual reality have a key role to play in protecting species at risk and Born Free leads the way.”
Kahuzi-Biega National Park, a vast 6,000 square km UNESCO World Heritage site in the South Kivu Province of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, is one of the last strongholds of the Eastern Lowland Gorilla. Born Free has financially supported the park since 2000, providing funds for vital infrastructure, vehicles and equipment, as well as for community conservation initiatives on the park boundary.
Mighty Chimanuka lives in Kahuzi-Biega. Gorillas may be powerful, but they are mostly peaceful and live in close-knit groups. According to the IUCN Red List, the number of Eastern Lowland Gorillas is estimated at just 3,800 and they remain under serious threat from poaching for bushmeat, loss of habitat and civil unrest. Chimanuka and his family can be adopted through Born Free from just £2.50 per month.
Born Free Foundation President, Will Travers OBE, added: “I have never seen gorillas in the wild but with Gorilla Safari VR I really feel I’ve had the chance to explore their world. It’s brilliant! It is extraordinary to think that experts are predicting the Eastern Lowland Gorilla could be the first kind of gorilla to become extinct. Could 2017 be the year we turn the corner for this mighty species?”
Gorilla Safari VR for iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/gorilla-safari-vr/id1188452102
Gorilla Safari VR for Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.vecotourism.chimanuka
Adopt Chimanuka: http://www.bornfree.org.uk/give/adopt-an-animal/gorilla/
Learn more about Born Free’s work in Kahuzi-Biega: http://www.bornfree.org.uk/animals/gorillas/projects/kbnp-nat-park-project/