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Uganda's mountain gorillas increase in number

The most recent census of mountain gorillas in Ugandas Bwindi Impenetrable National Parkone of only two places in the world where the rare gorillas existhas found that the population has increased by 6 percent since the last census in 2002, according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Max Planck Institute of Anthropology and other groups that participated in the effort.

This is great news for all of the organizations that have worked to protect Bwindi and its gorilla population, said Wildlife Conservation Society researcher Dr. Alastair McNeilage, who is also the director of the Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation in Bwindi. There are very few cases in this world where a small population of a endangered primates is actually increasing.

According to the census, which also successfully used for the first time genetic samples from fecal specimens, Bwindis gorilla population now numbers 340 individual gorillas, up from 320 in 2002, and 300 in 1997.

The census was conducted between April and June 2006 to determine the size and makeup of the Bwindi population, in addition to their distribution and to gauge human impacts on the gorillas. During that time, survey teams set out with the intention of counting every family group in the population, a method possible only with small animal populations in a relatively small area; Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is approximately 127 square miles in size.

In addition to census methodologies such as counting trails and nests (gorillas construct a nest each night), researchers used genetic analyses as well, specifically because many of the groups were clustered in the same area of the park, which presented survey teams with the risk of double-counting the same individuals or groups. DNA analysis, however, allowed individuals to be identified and distinguished, even among groups which have never been seen by people. Fecal specimens were analyz
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Contact: John Delaney
jdelaney@wcs.org
718-220-3275
Wildlife Conservation Society
20-Apr-2007


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