Conservation efforts to save the endangered mountain gorillas are paying off, with the latest census counting over 1,000 gorillas, an increase from 800 from previous census.
The count revealed 604 mountain gorillas living in trans-boundary Virunga Massif in the Virunga Mountains, a vast area that covers three countries; Rwanda, DR Congo and Uganda, a rise from the previously counted 480. The remaining live in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, with the 2018 Bwindi-Sarambwe mountain gorilla survey finding a minimum of 459 mountain gorillas in the regions, an increase from the previous survey estimate in 2011 of 400.
This brings the total world population of endangered mountain gorillas to 1,063, a figure attributed to the effectiveness of conservation policies and strategies, including regulated tourism, daily protection and veterinary interventions, intensive law enforcement, community conservation projects, and transboundary collaboration.
While the increase is positive news, the report does highlight that the two populations of mountain gorillas still remain small and vulnerable due to factors such as their limited habitat, climate change, dependency on resources in the park by people, and the risk of disease transmission.
Testament to the tireless effort of the rangers and trackers who protect and monitor mountain gorillas and their habitat daily, the results and the conservation efforts have come at a cost. The report says that over 175 rangers have sacrificed their lives protecting Virunga National Park in the last 20 years.
The 2018 Bwindi-Sarambwe census was conducted by the Protected Area Authorities in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Uganda Wildlife Authority and l’Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature) under the transboundary framework of the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration.
It was supported by the Rwanda Development Board, International Gorilla Conservation Programme (a coalition of Conservation International, Fauna & Flora International and WWF), Mammalian Ecology and Conservation Unit of the UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation, Gorilla Doctors, Conservation Through Public Health, Wildlife Conservation Society Uganda Country Office, WWF Uganda Country Office, and Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Trust.
Funding for the census came from Fauna & Flora International, WWF, and Partners in Conservation at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium.