The census, led by WCS project director Innocent Liengola, counted 168 gorillas living in the mountain highlands of Kahuzi-Biega National Park. Most encouragingly, a number of the groups had infants. A census under difficult conditions in 2000 estimated 120 to 130 animals in the same area. Preliminary surveys from other regions in the park and outlying areas have also shown these rare large primates to continue to persist, despite some recent reports that the animals are nearing extinction.
"The fact that this Grauer's gorilla population may actually be increasing is a tribute to the park guards who have stood their ground against rebel armies and poachers. They are true conservation heroes," said WCS Conservationist Dr. Jeffferson Hall, who conducted the first-ever Grauer's gorilla census in 1996. "I'm absolutely convinced that if the guards did not remain in Kahuzi Biega, there would be no animals left."
Hall led a WCS survey team in Kahuzi-Biega in 1996 that found a population of 245-270 Grauer's gorillas living in the same area of the park. Following his survey, the population was hit hard by the onset of Congo's long civil war, which swept through much of the country.
"When we counted up the numbers of gorillas we knew had been killed during the war, we thought we might find fewer than one hundred left," Liengola said about the current census. "The survey results show us that even sensitive sp