The mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) population in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) has increased to an estimated 400 individuals, according to the recent released results of a three-week census carried out by the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA) in September and October 2011.
This is an increase from the 2002 and 2006 censuses, which showed the total number of mountain gorillas in the region to be 320 and 340 respectively. The recent tally has revealed that there are 36 gorilla families and 16 solitary males living inside Bwindi.
It is estimated that there are now 880 mountain gorillas left in the wild. (A 2010 census in the Virunga massif region – made up of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Uganda), Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda) and Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of Congo) – showed the population stood at 480; Bwindi holds the balance of the population.)
“The mountain gorilla is the only great ape whose population is increasing despite continuous pressure on its habitat,” said Dr Augustin Basabose, Interim Director of the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP). This positive trend is due to the strong collaboration among the three countries where mountain gorillas live and the collective efforts on the ground by park staff, surrounding communities and local government and non-governmental organisations.”
The census teams moved through Bwindi twice, making use of new genetic technology and field methods to get the best results possible. “Even with evolving census methods, the results indicate that this population has indeed increased over the past five years, and that is very encouraging for this critically endangered species,” stated Maryke Gret, Technical Advisor to the IGCP.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most popular tourism destinations in Africa.
Note: While it was initially planned for the census to include Sarambwe Nature Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a protected area connected to Bwindi. increasing insecurity in the region at the time precluded entrance by the UWA team.