Earlier this week the World Wildlife Fund had good news to share regarding Africa’s mountain gorilla population. The organization reported that a recent census taken in Uganda showed a substantial increase over the past two years in the number of these extremely shy and endangered animals that are living in the wild. This is a positive sign for the future of the gorillas although the WWF is quick to caution that there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure their survival.
The recent census counted 400 mountain gorillas living in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and another 480 in the Virunga Massif. That brings their total numbers up to 880, which is 94 more than the previous census that was taken in 2010. That rise in population is attributed to better management and protection of the gorillas’ natural habitats.
Matt Lewis, the WWF’s African species specialist, says that the creatures still face many threats, including, “habitat loss, disease and snare entanglements amongst others.” But the biggest threat comes to their habitat itself. Part of the mountain gorilla population is spread out across Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The DRC is in the process of exploring the possibility of drilling for oil not far from where the creatures make their home and any industrialization of that area is cause for concern.
Still, conservationists are celebrating these numbers as they show that when protected, even animals on the brink of extinction can begin to make a comeback. Tourism has played a role in that process as well, as all three countries allow a limited number of travelers to visit the gorillas in their natural environments. Those travelers pay a hefty fee for that privilege and much of the proceeds go directly to gorilla conservation. This remains a great example of our travel dollars doing some good.
[Photo Credit: Kurt Ackermann]