Mountain gorilla baby
According to a new count released this week, mountain gorillas living in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have increased in number despite the bloody conflict.
The census — the first since specialized rangers were expelled by rebel forces from the Virunga National Park 16 months ago — showed a sub-population of gorillas had gone up from 72 to 81.
These gorillas have been habituated, meaning they are used to tourists visiting the park to see them.
They are most at risk of being killed because they do not fear people. They also inhabit regions strewn with snares laid to trap other forest animals for food.
“We are relieved to see that instead of fewer gorillas, which we had feared, there are actually several more animals,” said Marc Languy of the World Wildlife Fund.
During the conflict, 15 months passed without park rangers being able to monitor the gorillas.
But in December, forces loyal to Congolese ex-general Laurent Nkunda allowed the rangers to enter the Mikeno sector to resume monitoring. While on patrol, they found more than 400 snares set by poachers targeting forest antelope.
“This clearly indicates that conservation efforts must continue to save mountain gorillas which remain threatened, despite the good news brought by the latest count,” Languy said.
Experts estimate that the total population of mountain gorillas in the park at fewer than 400.
News from the Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, however, was not so good. Rangers found 10 percent fewer – 302 gorillas rather than 336 — than previous estimates. This could mean that the gorilla population in the park is not growing, as previously assumed.
Many experts fear that the gorilla is facing extinction. The total population of mountain gorillas in central Africa ranges around 700, according to the United Nations Environment Program. The last decade has also seen a steep drop from 17,000 to 5,000 in the population of eastern lowland gorillas.
Read more about the biggest threat facing these magnificent primates here.