The Mountain gorilla population in Africa has grown significantly, an indication of positive effort by conservationists to save them from total extinction, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has indicated.
Andrew Seguya, the Former Executive Director of Uganda Wildlife Authority, now working with the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration, says the rising number of gorillas means that there is need to expand their habitats and to raise more money for the communities in the area.
Only found in Africa and listed in “Red List” of threatened species, the mountain gorilla population has grown from 680 individuals in 2008 to over 1,000 individuals in 2018, which is the highest figure ever recorded for the subspecies of the Eastern Gorilla, IUCN said in its latest report.
The mountain gorilla’s habitat is restricted to protected areas covering nearly 800 square kilometres in two locations made up of the Virunga Massif and Bwindi-Sarambwe, stretching across the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.
The Mountain gorilla still faces significant threats, including poaching amid recurring civil unrest and diseases.
“Today’s update to the IUCN Red List illustrates the power of conservation action,” Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General, said in a statement.
“These conservation successes are proof that the ambitious, collaborative efforts of governments, business and civil society could turn back the tide of species loss,” Inger said.
The updated Red List is meanwhile far from a rosy read, includes 96,951 species of animals and plants, of which 26,840 are threatened with extinction.
“Even though the rise of the mountain gorilla population is fantastic news, the species is still in danger and conservation efforts must go on,” Liz Williamson, primate specialist for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said.
The IUCN classifies species according to the threat they face, and numbers for most high-profile ones are falling.
The legendary ‘silverback’ gorillas found in volcanoes of the Western Rift Valley where Rwanda, Congo and Uganda meet, have drawn thousands of tourists willing to pay hundreds of dollars to see them.
Their habitat also supports other species found nowhere else, including golden monkeys, but limited to two protected areas of the Virunga Massif, spanning in the two Central African equatorial forest countries and Uganda’s Bwindi national park.
Mountain gorilla habitats are surrounded by farmlands with a growing human population threatening encroachment on gorilla natural life. They also face threats from poachers, civil unrest and diseases, including contracting the Ebola virus.
The biggest threat to the mountain gorilla population would be a new and highly contagious disease because that would be very hard to control.
Mountain gorillas are the leading tourist attraction in Rwanda, pulling crowds of tourists across the world. Gorilla trekking is the most expensive wildlife safari in Africa with life experience.