A mountain gorilla census was conducted in 2018 in Bwindi Impenetrable forest in Uganda and Sarambwe reserve in the DRC. This was aimed at establishing the mountain gorilla population in the two primates wildlife ecosystems. The mountain gorilla census results were released in December 2019 showing a steady increase of the mountain gorilla population. This is from an estimated 400 in the 2011 census to 459 as per the released results in December 2019.
With this, total mountain gorilla population is now estimated at 1063 gorillas when combined with those in the Virunga massif. The Virunga massif covers Volcanoes national park Rwanda, Mgahinga gorilla park Uganda and Virunga national park in DRC.
Mountain Gorilla Conservation Journey
The mountain gorilla conservation journey has not been an easy one but has over time yielded positive results. The population increase portrays conservation efforts as in 1980’s the population in the Virunga massif was as low as 240.
Many gorillas were killed in civil wars, poached and disease since they have a DNA similar to humans. The mountain gorilla habitats had been also encroached on which affected them further making their numbers shrink this low.
At the time, mountain gorillas had been listed as critically endangered primates species by the IUCN. There was therefore urgent need for mountain gorilla conservation to restore numbers and habitats for them.
A 2016 mountain gorilla census of the Virunga massif indicated gorilla population increase from 240 in the 1980’s to 604. With this, the mountain gorillas status in the IUCN Red list records was changed from critically endangered to endangered.
Mountain gorilla conservation has been supported by collaborative efforts from wildlife authorities in the 3 countries with the Mountain gorillas. With teams from these countries, surveys are easily done and with information sharing it makes the whole work very easy.
There has been more continued support from government and mountain gorilla conservation organizations like the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.
Mountain Gorilla Tourism
The forested mountains of Bwindi and Virunga massif have habituated mountain gorilla families that are open to tourist visitation.
Because of need for conservation, only 8 tourists are allowed to track one mountain gorilla family per day. These tourists buy gorilla permits and part of the money from gorilla permits is used in mountain gorilla conservation.
Another percentage of the money from gorilla permits is given back to the community around the mountain gorilla national parks. This is because these people around where initially forest dwellers who entirely depended on the forests for livelihood. They were now resettled at the edge of the national parks to reduce on gorilla habitat encroachment and poaching.
Mountain Gorilla Tracking
A gorilla tour to the misty mountains offers remarkable encounters that most tourists term as once in a life time experience. Mountain gorilla tours always leave lasting African safari and primate tracking memories.
A gorilla trek can be done any time of the year guided by trained ranger guides in gorilla national parks.
Mountain gorilla tours and safaris are on high demand therefore gorilla permits easily get fully booked. The peak travel seasons from July to September and from December to March is the most busy one.
You can have a Rwanda gorilla tour in Volcanoes national park that is a 3 hours drive from Kigali. A Uganda gorilla tour can be enjoyed in Bwindi or Mgahinga gorilla park all located in the southwestern part of the country. Lastly, you can visit Virunga for a Virunga gorilla tour in DRC’s Virunga national park.
We advocate for more conservation efforts towards all wildlife species including the endangered mountain gorillas. We hope that in the next mountain gorilla census we will notice a further increase in the population. A number of baby gorilla births have been recorded in the three major mountain gorilla national parks.