Conservationists have reason to celebrate, the number of mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National park and DR Congo’s Sarambwe Nature Reserve has risen from to 459.
According to the newly the published survey, the new estimate of 459 from Bwindi Impenetrable National park and DR Congo’s Sarambwe Nature Reserve and the latest gorilla count from the Virunga Massif brings the worldwide total to 1,063 wild mountain gorillas.
Over the last eight years, number of mountain gorillas has steadily grown 400 and changed the subspecies status on the IUCN Red List from critically endangered to endangered.
Dr. Simon Nampindo, the Country Director, Wildlife Conservation Society, Uganda Program said, “This is certainly not by accident, but rather intensive, deliberate and sustained daily conservation efforts provided by national park authorities and other conservationists. It is a demonstration of what happens when there are concerted conservation efforts by countries as well as NGOs, governments and the communities.”
He however, added that this is not the time to slacken off but rather to scale up efforts due to the high number of threats that indicate that the battle is far from won.
Mountain gorillas’ conservation is risky because these rare apes continue to face numerous threats ranging from climate change to limited habitat and increasing pressures from encroaching human populations. Wire and rope snares set for the game, in particular, pose a significant danger.
Previously, poachers would kill Mountain gorillas for food and their body parts which are known to fetch hefty sums on the market for traditional medicine. Today, the local communities are transitioning from poaching as their livelihood to coffee farming and community tourism as alternatives and sustainable sources of income.
In 1991, the primates' the population was 300 animals, eight years ago, the number stood at 400 and today the number is 459.
According to the researchers and trackers involved in the census, the disconnected populations and their transboundary ranges (mountain gorillas live in Uganda, DRC and Rwanda) make cooperation vital to both the protection of the animals and monitoring efforts.
The 2018 Bwindi-Sarambwe mountain gorilla population surveys were conducted by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and the I’Institute Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) of Democratic Republic of Congo under the transboundary framework of the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (GVTC). The census was supported by many partners namely Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF, FFI, Rwanda Development Board, IGCP, Mammalian Ecology and Conservation Unit of the UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation, Gorilla Doctors, Conservation Through Public Health, and Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Trust