The total world population of mountain gorillas has risen to 880, according to census data released today by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The number has increased from the 2010 estimate of 786 after a count in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
These critically endangered great apes live only in two locations, Bwindi and the Virunga Massif area, which spans parts of Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Rwanda.
A total of 400 mountain gorillas have been confirmed to be living in Bwindi and 480 were counted in the Virunga Massif in 2010. Both populations have had positive trends in population growth over the last decade.
As our African Great Ape Programme Manager, David Greer, explains: “Mountain gorillas are the only great ape experiencing a population increase. This is largely due to intensive conservation efforts and successful community engagement.”
Many mountain gorilla groups have become habituated to human presence and are a major tourist draw. As well as supporting important gorilla monitoring, visitor revenue has been reinvested into community projects such as schools and wells.
The biggest threats to mountain gorillas right now are entanglement in hunting snares, diseases caught from humans and habitat loss. At least seven Virunga gorillas have been caught in snares this year, and two did not survive.
The prospect of oil exploration in Virunga National Park is also cause for concern. While oil drilling wouldn’t be directly in gorilla habitat, an influx of workers and heavy industrial equipment would compromise the integrity of Virunga – which is Africa’s first national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site with prized biodiversity, including elephants, hippos and the rare okapi antelope.