Census finds mountain gorillas increasing

A recent census of the Virunga Volcanoes mountain gorilla population has found that the great apes have increased their numbers by 17 percent, according to conservation authorities in Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and other groups. The results indicate a total of 380 gorillas, up from 324 individuals in 1989, the last time conditions were stable enough to conduct such a census.

Facing the threats of sporadic insecurity and poaching, the mountain gorillas of the Virungas have climbed back from a low of approximately 260 individuals in 1978, when many believed the mountain gorilla would become extinct. When considered against the backdrop of regional instability during the past decade, the increase seems even more encouraging for conservationists.

"This success would not be possible without an effective, collaborative effort across international borders," said WCS Conservationist Dr. Bill Weber, author of In The Kingdom of Gorillas and leader of the 1978 census. "To successfully protect this population under such challenging conditions speaks volumes about the commitment and determination of park personnel in conserving their natural heritage."

Between September and October of 2003, the census was conducted by staff from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), the Office Rwandais de Tourisme et Parc Nationaux (ORTPN), the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN)--each of which manages a portion of the Virunga landscape--and other organizations. Six teams covered the mountain gorilla's entire range across three national parks--the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, the Parc National des Volcans in Rwanda, and the Parc National des Virunga in DRC. Participants recorded data on all gorilla nests and other signs, which were then used to establish the current estimate of 380 gorillas.

Although far fewer in number than their western relatives, mountain

Contact: John Delaney
Wildlife Conservation Society

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