Recent findings on mountain gorillas show hope for species’ survival
Nairobi, Kenya/Gland, Switzerland – After a decade of conservation efforts, the mountain gorillas in Eastern Africa are showing a slow but steady comeback, says WWF, the global conservation organization.
Results of a survey released today indicate that there are now 340 gorillas within the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in south-western Uganda, a 12 per cent growth over the past decade. Although this translates to an annual growth rate of about 1 per cent, it is indicative of a healthy and well protected population. The park is home to almost half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas.
“This is indeed great news for the survival of the mountain gorilla,” said Marc Languy of WWF’s Eastern Africa Regional Programme. “However, with only about 720 individual mountain gorillas surviving in the wild, more efforts are still needed to ensure these beautiful animals do not become extinct.”
WWF notes that both the eastern and northern sections of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park have had high levels of human disturbance in the past, such as hunting, habitat encroachment and civil unrest in the region.
The killing of two solitary silverback gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) earlier this year — with clear evidence that one was killed for meat — has raised fears for the survival of this small mountain gorilla population in Virunga National Park. The animals belonged to groups habituated for tourism. According to WWF, habituated gorillas are easy targets because they don’t fear the presence of humans. As a result, additional gorillas may be in danger.
The survey in Bwindi was conducted by several conservation organizations, including WWF. To avoid double-counting, genetic analysis of faecal samples of the gorillas in each group was used.
“The Bwindi census, which shows a continuing growth in the mountain gorilla population, comes after a similar trend was found in 2003 in the Virunga Massif,” said Eugene Rutagarama, of International Gorilla Conservation Programme.
“This shows how joint conservation efforts between Uganda Wildlife Authority, park authorities in Rwanda and the DRC, and conservation organizations can pay off, despite recurrent security threats in the region.”
Mountain gorillas are the main tourist attraction in the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda, earning these countries about US$5 million every year. Of the 30 gorilla groups found in Bwindi, five are habituated - a total of 76 individuals. The Uganda Wildlife Authority is planning to habituate two more groups as part of efforts to boost tourism.
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