In a hugely positive sign for conservationists working in the Virunga National Park of east-central Africa, the local population of critically endangered mountain gorillas has grown by 25% since 2010, bringing total population to just over 1,000 animals.
The result makes the gorilla species the only great ape in the world whose numbers are believed to be increasing, validating the massive conservation efforts concentrated on the area over the last three decades. Only recently the park welcomed two healthy new baby gorillas, bringing the total number of births this year to nine.
The population of mountain gorillas fell to just 250 animals at its nadir in 1982 due to a combination of poaching, habitat loss and disease. Since then, however, non-conventional conservation efforts in the national park (including allocating armed rangers to individual bands of gorillas) have seen numbers rise steadily.
For much of this time, conservation work was carried out in the context of a civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 5.6 million people. The war has resulted in nearly 77% of the population living in extreme poverty despite the country possessing great natural wealth.
This makes Virunga National Park a target for those armed militias seeking to make quick profits from illegally trafficked animal products and charcoal, hence the necessity of armed park rangers. Over 175 rangers have valiantly lost their lives protecting mountain gorillas and other animals living in the park.
The most severe and immediate threats to the gorillas remain poaching and habitat loss, but they are now also joined by the spectre of climate change, which is expected to impact ecosystems and their services as we move into the future. At this point the impact of a warming climate on the jungles of Virunga is unknown.
- If you want to support the Virunga National Park’s gorilla conservation efforts, visit the park website.
- For information on what you can to do to protect endangered or threatened Australian ecosystems and native species, visit the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife.
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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.