A new census report showed that the number of the endangered mountain gorillas in the Virunga Massif shared by Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has increased to 604 from 480 when the last census was done in 2010.
According to a joint report issued by the three countries on May 31, this is the largest number of mountain gorillas ever recorded in the transboundary, one of the two remaining areas where mountain gorillas can be found in the world. The other is Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
“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
Combined with the published figure of 400 mountain gorillas from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in 2011, an estimated 1,004 mountain gorillas existed in the wild as of June 2016.
Although the census was carried out in 2016, the results were published on Thursday due to the time needed to conduct the genetic analysis from fecal samples collected non-invasively from mountain gorilla night nest sites.
“The process of genetic analysis of the samples, while taking time, offers the most reliable results,” the report said.
The report attributed the increase to the effectiveness of conservation policies and strategies, such as regulated tourism, daily protection and veterinary interventions.
There has also been intensive law enforcement, community conservation projects, and transboundary collaboration among government institutions and private players.
“These results are a testament to the tireless effort of the rangers and trackers who daily protect and monitor mountain gorillas and their habitat, including those that have been killed in the line of duty,” Bashir Hangi, an official of Uganda Wildlife Authority, said.
Hangi said there is a need for consistent conservation efforts, noting that the habitat of the gorillas is threatened by climate change, human activities and the risk of disease transmission.
Mountain gorillas are a major source of tourism revenue in Uganda, responsible for a large portion of the 1.35 billion U.S. dollars the country earned from tourism in 2016, according to government figures.