The Ugandan Wildlife Authority has launched a project on social networking network Facebook aimed at collecting funds to help save the estimated 700 mountain gorillas remaining in Africa.
The project marks 2009 as the year of the Gorilla. For only 60p (or $1), Facebook users will be able to add one of the endangered gorillas - which live in the Dwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in Uganda - as their friend. In return, fans will receive regular updates of their new Gorilla friends as well as being able to display their pictures.
The campaign, launched on Saturday, will also be rolled out on Twitter and Myspace. The Ugandan authorities hope that even if a very small portion of the 300 million or so Facebook users, it would generate sustainable income to protect and nurture, one of the closest cousins to mankind.
Lilian Nsubuga, a spokesperson for the Ugandan Wildlife Authority, said that it would also allow millions to visit the Gorillas and their habitats virtually without having to fork out thousands of dollars. The UWA expects to raise $100 million from the Friend-a-Gorilla project as well as other similar sponsorship ventures.
It is estimated that last year alone, Gorilla tourism in Uganda generated around 540 million dollars, representing 90 percent of the country's tourism revenues. Apart from Facebook contributions, there is also a corporate sponsorship scheme aimed at businesses and companies.
But don't expect them to write posts on your wall. A recent experiment carried out by scientists on Zoo chimpanzees over two weeks found out that they couldn't type a single word.
If successful, this project could spawn a number of other fund raising initiatives from cash-strapped charities. Facebook allows these entities to interact directly with their core audience without having to spend a lot on marketing or administration.