Cheryl Santa Maria, staff writer
November 16, 2012 — Africa's mountain gorilla has experienced a growth in numbers following intense conservation efforts, the WWF has announced.
A recent census by the Uganda Wildlife Authority has recognized 880 mountain gorillas living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Rwanda, up from the 786 identified in 2010.
Alona Rivard, a spokesperson for the World Wildlife Fund, says the rebound is the result of conservation efforts headed by local government agencies.
"Human activities such as logging, hunting and agriculture are strictly controlled, making the forests safe and secure for the animals," she explains.
"Many mountain gorilla populations are monitored on a daily basis by researchers and rangers. Having people around can deter poachers, [and] the patrols remove hunting snares, which are a huge threat to the animals. Vets keep an eye on the health of habituated gorillas and will intervene if medical care is necessary."
Tourism has also helped.
According to the WWF, gorilla-watching brings an estimated $1 million to Uganda each year, providing local communities with a vested interest in conservation.
But Rivard is quick to point out that more work needs to be done.
"Other great ape species are not as well protected as mountain gorillas, so they are experiencing habitat loss and high levels of poaching or capture for the pet trade," she says.
"In many places wildlife crimes are not treated seriously by law enforcement or the judiciary, so there is no deterrent to poachers. Also, it is more difficult to habituate other types of gorillas so ecotourism isn't as viable."
Still, conservation experts say the findings are cause for cautious optimism.
“Although they face many threats ... this subspecies of the eastern gorilla can have a future on this planet,” said Matt Lewis, WWF’s African species expert, in a statement.
“And by protecting mountain gorillas, we ensure the survival of vital gorilla habitat and the other species that live there too.”