Best Guide to Mountain Gorilla Conservation in Rwanda, Uganda and Congo: The remaining mountain gorillas can be found in central Africa’s high rainforests. Mountain gorillas are extremely endangered, with just a few thousand left in the wild. They have just one home, a network of gorilla parks covering Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Gorilla conservation in Africa is improving as more organizations combine resources and the number of primates increases. Africa is home to a variety of animal species that have brought enormous social and economic advantages throughout the years, helping Africa to become one of the world’s leading tourism destinations.
Despite the many benefits, African wildlife species are on the verge of extinction, including the Mountain gorilla, Ethiopian wolf, Black Rhino, Rothschild’s Giraffe, Chimpanzee, African Penguin, Riverine Rabbit, African Wild Dog, and Pickergrill’s Reedfrog, which are all listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
Mountain gorillas are one of four gorilla species found in the Virunga volcanic highlands of southern Uganda, northwestern Rwanda, and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The two main species are lowland and mountain gorillas.
The two subspecies of lowland gorillas are the Eastern and Western Lowland gorillas. Mountain gorillas may be found in four national parks: Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, Virunga National Park in Congo, and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Mountain gorillas have longer and thicker fur than lowland gorillas, helping them to adapt to colder temperatures.
Adult male gorillas have a more prominent bony crest, as well as gray and silver colored hair on their backs that increases with age, giving rise to the moniker silverback. Mountain gorillas weigh 195kg to 200kg, which is double the weight of females. They walk in a knuckle walking position, bearing their weight on the backs of their curled fingers, and their arms are longer than their legs.
What factors are affecting the survival of Mountain Gorillas in the wild?
Despite these encouraging statistics of steadily expanding mountain gorilla populations in recent years, these great apes suffer a number of threats stemming from human acts that are considered to have almost wiped out the primates in the early 1970s.
These threats can be roughly defined as mostly human-caused social, economic, and political issues.
Gorilla habitat loss and encroachment.
Humans have cleared land for crops and animals as they have spread into areas where mountain gorillas live. Even land within protected areas is susceptible to destruction; for example, illegal squatters destroyed 3,700 acres of gorilla habitat in Virunga National Park in 2004.
Increased human contact with mountain gorillas through settlements and tourism activities such as gorilla trekking raises the risk of these gorillas catching human infectious illnesses like as pneumonia, flu, and, most recently, Ebola.
Disease has been blamed for at least 20% of gorilla population fatalities. The rising economic needs of humans have led in a rise in poaching using traps and snares.
Poaching might be successful since mountain gorillas, especially newborns, can fetch up to $5,000 on the black market. Mountain gorillas are rarely targeted for bush meat or the pet trade, although they can be captured and injured by snares set for other species.
Another thing to consider is the considerable threat posed to mountain gorillas by prior decades of political turmoil and civil conflicts in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When gorillas come into contact with humans, they can acquire infected with human diseases, which can manifest in more severe forms in gorillas. Mountain gorillas are susceptible to common cold.
Mountain gorilla families that are regularly acquainted with researchers and visitors, on the other hand, have fared better than unvisited gorillas; they benefit from increased protection in those areas, as well as regular monitoring. Improved veterinary care for sick and injured gorillas has also led to higher survival rates.
People make charcoal inside gorilla habitats in gorilla parks such as Virunga National Park in Congo for use as a cooking and heating fuel. This multi-million-dollar illegal charcoal production has ravaged gorilla habitat.
How Gorilla Conservation has positively impacted Mountain Gorilla Populations in Rwanda, Uganda and Congo?
Between 1959 and 1960, the mountain gorilla population varied. The first gorilla census, undertaken by George Schaller, anticipated 400 to 500 gorillas in the Virunga protected region. This was followed by gorilla censuses conducted by Dian Fossey and her Karisoke Research Center team in 1971 and 1973, which reported a significant drop in gorilla numbers to 250.
This drop has been ascribed to increased poaching as well as the conversion of up to 40% of the National Park land to agricultural cultivates. Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Gorilla Census. In 1978, the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda performed a census, discovering around 260 gorillas, including 42 babies under the age of three.
Following Dian Fossey’s death in 1985, the population increased to roughly 320 in the Bwindi impenetrable forest and 324 in the Virunga protected area during the 1989 census. In the Virunga protected region, the number gradually climbed to 380 in 2003 and 480 in 2010, suggesting a 26.3% increase in gorilla population over a seven-year period.
The Bwindi impenetrable forest census was done differently from the Virunga mountains, with the 1997 gorilla census suggesting a total of 300 individuals, climbing to 320 in 2002. This value has reduced to 302 in the 2006 population census. In the 2006 gorilla census, 682 mountain gorillas were discovered in both the Virunga and Bwindi impenetrable national parks, with a further 138 discovered in 2012 and over 1000 in the wild in the most recent 2018 gorilla census.
The worldwide mountain gorilla population now stands at 1,063 individuals, with around 459 gorillas located in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the surrounding Sarambwe Nature Reserve in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and 604 individuals inhabiting the Virunga Massif.
How Dian Fossey contributed to Gorilla Conservation in Rwanda, Uganda and Congo?
Dian Fossey is widely considered as one of the world’s greatest primatologists. Dian Fossey grew interested in visiting Africa after seeing photographs from a friend’s trip to the continent. She went on a safari in Africa in 1963.
Her route takes her via Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She met renowned archaeologist Louis Leakey while exploring Tanzania’s Olduvai Gorge. They had a wonderful conservation discussion, and one of the subjects they covered was Jane Goodall’s excellent work with chimps.
Dian developed an interest in primatology, particularly the great apes. Dian Fossey loves mountain gorillas more than any other animal. Leakey encouraged her to do study on mountain gorillas and was anxious to share her results. She came in the Virunga protected area in 1967 and set up shop between Mount Bisoke and Karisimbi. By merging the names of the two mountains, she created the Karisoke Research Centre.
The research facility began in a hut and has now expanded to include specialized buildings. Digit, a five-year-old male gorilla, was her first gorilla encounter. She paid close attention to it, and they began to form a friendly relationship.
She began making friends with other gorillas after realizing how kind and warm they were. She later carried out the first gorilla census in the Virunga protected area. According to the census results, the number of mountain gorillas has dropped substantially, and they may go extinct if nothing is done to stop poaching and habitat encroachment. She brought mountain gorillas’ plight to the world’s notice and asked animal conservation organizations to help.
Dian Fossey’s first purpose was research, but she gradually expanded her effort to include gorilla conservation. She proposed three approaches to gorilla conservation: proactive, collaborative, and theoretical. As part of her proactive strategy, she fought hard against animal/pet traffickers and poachers. She rallied her men to destroy poachers’ snares in gorilla habitats. Dian Fossey also urged countries to establish strict anti-poaching legislation.
How Gorilla Trekking Tours contribute to Mountain Gorilla Conservation in Rwanda, Uganda and Congo?
The governments of Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo gathered with gorilla conservation organizations in the 1990s to develop a strategy for exposing gorillas to the rest of the world through gorilla tourism.
Allowing tourists like you to see the primates and great apes would not only raise funds for conservation, but would also educate local communities living near gorilla habitats about the need of keeping the monkeys alive. Gorilla tourism would help to create jobs and implement vital community programs.
The concept of gorilla trekking tourism was widely accepted, and mountain gorilla trekking is now one of the world’s most popular wildlife activities. Every year, thousands of tourists travel to Africa to monitor gorillas. Many others were overheard saying it was the most fantastic animal encounter they’d ever experienced.
Other approaches have taken root, such as involving communities in decision-making and raising awareness about the need of animal protection. In addition to community-based efforts including improved housing and infrastructure, the park headquarters have been rebuilt to increase visitor numbers. Periodic gorilla census counts in concentrated mountain gorilla habitats, ranger patrols, trap disabling, on-the-ground law enforcement, and protected area safeguards are among the other gorilla conservation initiatives.