A survey of wild mountain gorillas living in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo has shown an increase to 480, up from 380. Conducted in the spring of 2010, the survey was supported by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme and the World Wildlife Fund, with several other conservation groups.
The last count of this particular gorilla population was done in 2003, so an increase of 100 gorillas over seven years represents a considerable annual growth rate. It is the largest wild population of wild mountain gorillas in the world, so the fact they are growing is a sign the various conservation organizations are having a positive impact. In the same period nine gorillas from the same population were illegally poached. In 2008, National Geographic reported seven Virunga gorillas were killed with automatic weapons by poachers.
Armed conflict between various human factions has led to habitat damage and destruction in Virunga, which is one of Africa’s first protected nature reserves. Forests within the area have been exploited without regard for their well-being due to farming, human settlement, logging, and the bush meat trade. One thing that has helped stabilize the Virunga gorilla population is increased foot patrols by conservation rangers. There is so much conflict with poachers and rebels that 150 or more rangers have been killed trying to protect gorillas and other wildlife.
Although the increase is surely good news, the gorillas are still just as vulnerable to poaching and habitat destruction, because their population is very small. There has been a strong concern soon they will go extinct. “We’re dealing with an unusual situation, where we have very low numbers in a single location. It’s like having all your eggs in one basket, and that makes them very vulnerable beyond the success we’ve been having these last few years,” said director of Virunga National Park, Emmanuel de Merode. (Source: Time.com)
Image Credit: d_proffer