On 31 May 2018, a census result was released that showed the gorilla population that live in the Virunga Mountains has risen from 480 in the year 2010 to 604 as of June 2016. This, combined with the numbers of mountain gorillas found in the Bwindi Impenetrable Gorilla National Park brings the total number to slightly over 1000. This news has been met with cheers, particularly from conservation stakeholders that must have made this possible. This increase, according to research, reconfirms the mountain gorillas as the only wild ape whose population is known to be increasing.
The increase can be attributed to the kind of intensive daily protection that’s provided by conservation organizations like the Musanze-based Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund together with park authorities of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda (RDB). The announcement also represented a massive success for conservation efforts at a time such success stories are becoming increasingly rare. Credit goes to all those striving to protect these endangered species-the governments of DRC, Uganda and Rwanda, different conservation organizations operating in the Virunga mountains and, of course, the local communities.
Research has indicated that this consistent increase in mountain gorilla population is credited to intensive protection that’s provided by the three countries’ park authorities together with conservation-minded organizations. But despite this success, because of their small number mixed with high levels of threats, including snares set to trap other animals, climate change, disease and limited habitat, continued protection of these sub-species is extremely critical and must go on.
The current census conducted represents the 9th count of mountain gorilla population in the Virunga massif since the early 1970s. Population records show that after more than 10 years of documented decline in their numbers, in 1981 the population reached a low of 242 mountain gorillas. However, subsequent censuses have shown consistent increase in their population to the recently released number of 604 in the Virunga range.
The Virunga Massif, straddling the three countries of DRC, Uganda and Rwanda, covers 451 km2. It includes Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda), Mikeno Sector of Virunga National Park (DRC) and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Uganda). These (together with Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (Uganda) are the only two places in the world you will ever find the rare mountain gorilla.
Furthermore, the census also acts as some great example as to why continued research, provided by organizations like the Virunga Community Programs, is significant to long-term conservation efforts. Repeated census offers crucial insights and assessments into the entire mountain gorilla population, while at the same time it confirms that intensive conservation efforts are truly working. It also provides conservation partners with some ideal conservation planning.
The local communities must also be commended for this great news. It appears like conservation education and community development being carried around the Virunga Mountains continue to bear fruits.
With effective conservation initiatives and their success stories, the local communities are now realizing the fruits of tourism and conservation around the parks. Tourism now plays a great role in conservation, as witnessed in Rwanda where a fraction of the tourism dollar goes directly in supporting local community in building schools and hospitals. The economy of the country is being improved through building of different infrastructures with money from tourism. With this, people come to appreciate the importance of conservation, and it’s now evident they’re taking conservation seriously.
Through educating people concerning the consequences of our actions, particularly to do with rampant destruction of nature, we get to understand the ways to preserve our natural heritage. Here at the Virunga Community Programs, we are aware that what has been lost can never be reclaimed. All those gorillas that lost their lives due to rampant poaching will never be resurrected.