Census For Mountain Gorillas Underway

2096 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
A census is underway to take stock of mountain gorillas in the Mgahinga, Bwindi and Virunga conservation area, which hosts the entire world’s mountain gorilla population in the wild.

A census is underway to take stock of mountain gorillas in the Mgahinga, Bwindi and Virunga conservation area, which hosts the entire world’s mountain gorilla population in the wild.
 
The census is jointly undertaken by Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Institute for Tropical Forest Conservation at Mbarara University, the Rwanda Development Board, and the Congo Institute for the Conservation of Nature among other organizations.
 
Ivan Wassaaka, the Communications Officer for the Institute for Tropical Forest Conservation says that the census is expected to last over six weeks.
 
He explains that the counting doesn’t involve encounters with the animals. Rather, the scientists are meticulously counting the nests in which individual gorillas rest by night, trailing their footprints and analyzing their excreta— collected from the nests— in the laboratory to eliminate double-counting.
 
There is an estimated 786 mountain gorillas left in the wild. They live in Bwindi and Mghahinga forests in Uganda, Virunga National Park in DRC and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is known to host more than half of the total population.
 
The giant apes are endangered by hunters and deforestation. Efforts to conserve and boost the gorilla population have been on-going between the three countries.
 
Stephen Masaba, the Ag. Director in charge of Tourism and Business Services at Uganda Wildlife Authority says that gorillas have been the flagship tourism activity for Uganda in the last few years. He says that the authority is in fact overwhelmed by applications for gorilla tracking permits. He says they must know how many they have, to be able to market them.
 
In 2009, Uganda earned up to 225 million US dollars from gorilla tourism, accounting for 37 percent of the country’s total tourism earnings.
 
The tourism activity has also become a major employer for Ugandans, with about 5,000 people involved in tours and travel in the Bwindi and Mgahinga areas, according to Wassaaka.