The population of the mountain gorillas has increased to over 1000, the Virunga Census has revealed. This is great news to conservationists as well as the tourism fraternity in Uganda and Rwanda.
According to results just released by the World Wilde Fund (WWF) at a press conference held in Rubavu, Western Rwanda, the number of mountain gorillas in the Virunga Massif has grown to 604, a big increase from the 480 individuals counted in the last 2010 census!
“In the area encompassing the Mikeno Sector of Virunga National Park in DRC, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, referred to as the Virunga Massif, 604 individual gorillas were found in 41 groups and as 14 solitary males,” the report said. “This is compared with an estimated 480 individual gorillas in 36 groups and as 14 solitary males from a survey of the same area in 2010,” the report added.
The Virunga Massif is shared by Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and in each country, this protected area is gazetted as a national park. The region is one of the few trans-boundary national parks in Africa and joint efforts have been taken to ensure conservation of the mountain gorillas.
Mountain gorillas are some of the rare animals and are only found in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These great apes live in two distinct areas; the Virunga massif shared by Uganda, Rwanda and DRC as well as the Bwindi Forest National Park in South Western Uganda.
There has been a conflict on the total numbers of the mountain gorillas in the wild with some citations quoting 880 mountain gorillas while other quote 920. However with the last census held in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in 2011 that put the population of Bwindi to be 400 individuals the number of gorillas in the wild surpasses 1006 individuals. Though this is not the final result, there are more registered births in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park since 2011 and therefore the estimated number of mountain gorillas must be above 1040 individuals.
The Virunga Gorillas
Mountain gorillas are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). These great apes are threatened by several factors that include poaching, diseases and political conflicts.
Though there has been a semblance of peace in the Virunga areas that belong to Uganda and Rwanda, a lot is still needed to be done in the Virunga National Park of Congo. In this volatile region, there are still various challenges that include;
- Growing interest of Oil drilling in the region given that the park sits on possible oil wells
- the off and on civil conflicts where by at one time, the rebels controlled tourism in the park
- Low tourism arrivals in the area mainly due to unending conflicts that threaten security of the tourists
- Poaching – Lots of rangers have been killed by poachers within the park
All in all we congratulate the national park authorities of Rwanda, DR Congo and Uganda as well as all the conservation partners who have worked so hard on this conservation success story.
Gorilla Increase and Tourism
Mountain gorillas are the formidable base for tourism development in Uganda and Rwanda as well as Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The major source of tourism revenue in Uganda and Rwanda has been gorilla tourism that is conducted within the Virunga and Bwindi. Gorilla Tourism is responsible for a large portion of the 1.35 billion U.S. dollars that Uganda earned from tourism in 2016, according to government figures.
Reports show that the conservation of the mountain gorillas has helped a lot in promoting tourism in the region. It should also be noted that the proceedings from gorilla tourism also help in the conservation of these great apes and therefore a win win scenario has been realised.
The increase in gorilla numbers is a great step towards promoting sustainable tourism development in all the three countries that protect the endangered mountain gorillas.