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Mountain gorilla population recovering
The analysis of a census of mountain gorillas conducted in March and April 2010 indicates that there were a total of 480 mountain gorillas, Gorilla beringei beringei, in 36 groups along with 14 solitary silverback males in the Virunga Massif.
The census itself was a major exercise. Over 1,000 kilometres were systematically walked by 6 mixed teams of 72 people from DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda. The teams covered the entire range and meticulously documented fresh signs of mountain gorilla groups. Genetic analysis of faecal samples collected were analysed to identify and correct for any double-counting of individuals or groups, ensuring the most accurate estimate for the population.
Maryke Gray, who coordinated the Virunga gorilla census, says that, although habituated mountain gorillas are continuously monitored, periodic census of the population was a necessary step in conservation.
"The census allows all of us working in conservation to create a benchmark. Like any census, it captures the population at a specific point in time. This benchmark allows us to assess the status of this population as a whole and adjust our conservation efforts accordingly," explained Ms Gray.
Mountain gorillas are seen as one of the main attractions in this remote part of Central Africa, representing a major tourist destination in Rwanda, Uganda and eastern Congo.
Gorilla populations had been threatened by warfare in the region, which caused many war victims to flee into the mountain gorilla's habitats. Also poaching has been as great problem, especially during the past conflicts.
The threats from poaching, although reduced, have not been eliminated. Recently, a cross-border patrol discovered and destroyed just over 200 snares in the Virunga Massif over a five-day patrol. "Although poachers typically do not target mountain gorillas, the snares they set are a threat nonetheless," according to AWF.
By staff writer
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