Animals & Wildlife Magazine

Mountain Gorilla Conservation Showing Deserved Success

By Jennambarry @JennaMBarry

Mountain gorilla conservation showing deserved success

There is no more breathtaking a sight than the majestic, charismatic, critically endangered mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei). The beautiful Virunga mountain range borders Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is an area stricken with poverty and disease, a place of extreme conflict, political instability and loss of infrastructure. More than 4 million people have lost their lives in this region in the past 14 years. This world heritage site and biodiversity hotspot is home to the mountain gorillas, and the unrest coupled with illegal poaching and advancing deforestation means that these animals face constant adversity.

Discovered in 1902 very little was known of their numbers, however in 1925 a hunter from the American Museum of Natural History named Carl Akeley was so moved by the gorillas that he assisted the campaign to get the Virungas declared a national park. In 1959 more comprehensive research began looking at behaviour, range, sociality and life cycles. At this time the population was estimated at around 450 individuals highlighting the rarity of the animals. It wasn’t until Dian Fossey began her studies in 1967 that the true severity of hunting and poaching problems was revealed. Her consistent population documentation showed that by 1981 numbers had been decimated to around 250. Drastic action was needed to end the decline and many talented and dedicated people leapt into action.

Now, in 2011 it would appear that good news can confidently be reported. The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and its International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP) has published a census showing the total population to be at 786 individuals (4 of which are orphans being cared for at a sanctuary in the DRC). This marks a 26.3% increase since the last census 7 years ago, in spite of several poachings throughout this time.

This increase can be attributed to the exceptional and relentless effort of those in the field and their collaborations with other organisations. It is truly a remarkable recovery from the 1980’s level.

The mountain gorilla is far from safe however this wonderful news brings us one step closer to securing their future.

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