Mountain gorilla numbers have increased, again! The steady growth in wild gorilla populations over the past decade is great news, given that the mountain gorilla is one of the most critically endangered species in the world!
The most recent 2018 census has shown that the number of wild mountain gorillas in the Virunga Massif region of central Africa has increased to more than 1000!
How many mountain gorillas are there in Africa?
According to Reuters news, the 2018 census estimates the number of mountain gorillas at 1004 in total (Virunga and Bwindi combined).
In Virunga the gorilla population has risen to 604, living in 41 social groups. In 2010 the gorilla census counted 480 mountain gorillas, living in 36 groups, up from 380 individuals in 2003.
The remaining 400 mountain gorillas are found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, according to the 2012 census.
Why are gorilla numbers increasing?
The Guardian reports that the increase in wild gorilla populations of Virunga is due to:
"...the introduction of park guards, veterinary care, community support projects and regulated tourism. However, the survey found that direct threats from wire or rope snares persist. These are set by people to catch antelopes for food but can kill or harm gorillas."
How many African mountain gorillas are there in captivity?
The International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) says that there are no mountain gorillas in captivity to date. So the wild mountain gorillas are it - they are the last surviving gorillas on the planet.
The IGCP states that the reason why mountain gorillas have not survived in captivity is unknown. Lowland gorillas, on the other hand, have been kept and bred successfully in captivity.
Gorilla Conservation - looking back at 2010
In 2010, conservationists said that the increase in gorilla numbers was the result of joint transboundary conservation efforts in Virunga Massif, which falls in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. Organizations in these three African countries have worked hard to protect the gorillas from poaching, reduce disease and conserve their natural habitat. The International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP), which is an alliance between the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), works closely with the park authorities in all three central African countries.
Another factor contributing to the increase in gorilla numbers is the establishment of local economic development projects in nearby communities. These community initiatives run by IGCP, focus on promoting tourism, sustainable resource use and alternative means of securing livelihoods. The International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) also works to help resolve issues in the local communities and says:
"the programme aims to influence attitudes to conservation at all levels and reduce the threats facing the parks, forests and wildlife."
On their website The Ecologist reports on these community initiatives, saying that:
"Many of these communities now keep bees to make honey or make handicrafts for tourists. They don't need to poach."
Although the slow and steady rise in gorilla numbers is encouraging these critically endangered apes are still incredibly vulnerable, particularly because the populations are concentrated in only two areas in the world.
Conservation efforts rely heavily on gorilla trekking tourism to benefit local communities and support the National Parks. According to the IGCP:
"Gorillas and tourism are inextricably linked. Arguably, neither has a future without the other."
In the Virunga Massif area, IGCP estimates that over R20.5 million is generated directly from gorilla tourism per year, funds that are critical for managing the national parks, gorilla monitoring and patrolling to ensure their survival. It's the same case in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where park authorities use gorilla trekking permit fees for gorilla conservation.
Not only is visiting the endangered mountain gorillas a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it also helps to ensure the survival of these giant primates!
Go see the mountain gorillas in the wild on one of our affordable Gorilla Trekking Tours!