A recent mountain gorilla census in Rwanda has revealed that the population of endangered mountain gorillas has increased significantly in the last 30 years, say researchers.
The census carried out in the Virunga Massif (which comprises of 3 national parks – Parc National de Virunga in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda) has revealed 480 individuals living in 36 groups. The last census in this area was conducted in 2003 and estimated the population to be 380.
The uplifting news that mountain gorilla populations are increasing is proof that responsible tourism has a pivotal role to play in the conservation of endangered animals and habitat. The money raised through sustainable wildlife tourism in Rwanda and Uganda has raised vital cash to go towards conservation projects like anti-poaching patrols and crucially, the money raised by tourism has caused local governments to realise that the economic value of their endemic wildlife is too great to be jeopardised. In addition tourism has helped to create thousands of gorilla ambassadors out of travellers who have taken a trip to Rwanda or Uganda and have returned home as passionate and vocal advocates of conservation of the world’s endangered primates.
While conservationists are upbeat about the results of the census they are also quick to temper any celebrations by drawing attention to the threats that still exist to primates in this Virunga region. 200 snares detected on a recent patrol in the Virunga Massif are a stark reminder that mountain gorillas need constant protection from poachers who while not necessarily targeting mountain gorillas, still pose a real threat to their continued resurgence.