The latest news from the Virunga Massif are really good news. The number of mountain gorillas left in the whole world has exceeded 1000 species. This was established at a press conference in Rubavu in Western Rwanda at which the results of the 2016 Virunga Census were announced.
According to the results of the census, the population of the Virunga gorillas has risen to 604 individuals. This means that Africa’s critically endangered mountain gorillas have exceeded 1,000 if you add on the 400 species that were established to be living in Bwindi Forests in the 2011 Gorilla Census!
The World Wide Fund (WWF) says the mountain gorilla numbers have increased to 604 from an estimated 480 individuals established in 2010 Census within the Virunga Massif. Combined with the latest published figures from the gorillas’ only other home, Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the overall population is 1,004. Ugandan officials say they expect a rise in the Bwindi population when the results of a recent, separate survey there are released.
The Virunga Massif is a hilly area encompassing parts of Rwanda, Uganda and Congo. This region protects the endangered mountain gorillas that are protected in three distinct national parks; Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, the Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda and the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Mountain gorillas are popular with tourists who travel to East Africa to see them in the wild. Today gorilla tourism has become one of the major factors that pull tourists to Uganda and Rwanda. According to the International Gorilla Consdervation Programme (IGCP), gorilla tourism generates significant economic and financial benefits to the Ugandan people. In 2017, there has been a growing number of tourists interested in taking gorilla expeditions into the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Mountain Gorillas, An Endangered Species
For long mountain gorillas have been classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The region’s population, however, dropped sharply in the past century because of poaching, illness and human encroachment.
Since then lots of efforts have been taken in promoting the mountain gorillas and the efforts have paid off! The efforts have made them the only great ape in the world considered to be growing in number. A recovery to 1000 gorillas is a great achievement – thanks to the different stakeholders that work together to protect the great apes in their natural homes!
Despite the achievements, a lot is still needed to be done in the Virunga National Park to ensure the safety of the gorillas. Poaching and insecurity has disturbed this amazing national park, the largest of the Virunga Parks. Several rangers have been killed in the park and in May 2018, the park was closed for 3 weeks after British tourists were kidnapped and the ranger killed in the scuffle.
Virunga National Park also relies more on donations given that gorilla tourism is still underdeveloped in the park. However, the rest of the region has seen high levels of protection of the great apes!