A new census of the gorilla population in East Africa has revealed positive results. The number of mountain gorillas across Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has risen to over 1 000.
The Virunga Mountains, which straddle the three countries, are home to 604 mountain gorillas. During the last survey in 2010, the Virunga population was at 480. The remainder of the population calls Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park home.
The survey was conducted by 12 teams from the Protected Areas Authority of the three countries, under the Greater Virunga Trans-boundary collaboration. The Virunga Mountain area is protected by the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga National Park in the DRC, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.
The teams covered 2 000km of difficult, forested terrain and collected information on nest sites, faecal samples and social group structures. The survey found that in Virunga, the population falls into 41 social groups.
The rise in numbers has been attributed to the introduction of trained park guards, better veterinary care, community support projects and better regulated tourism.
The survey makes special mention of the tireless efforts of the guards and rangers in the area, a number of whom have sacrificed their lives in the name of conservation.
However, there is still work to be done. The survey team found more than 380 snares during their treks. Snares are set to catch antelope and other small mammals for food. In one case, researchers found the body of a male mountain gorilla stuck in the snare.