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Uganda’s Mountain Gorillas On the Rise

With a boom in baby mountain gorillas in Bwindi Forest National Park, Uganda is exceptionally gorilla paradise! A drastic increase in the population of these Great Apes is expected in Uganda compared to the previous days. Within a week, two more babies added the number of these critically endangered creatures in Mubare family-Bwindi National Park. Looking at mountain gorilla life on a gorilla safari in the wild, this is the rarest thing ever that has been registered. On 23rd Karungi gave birth to a bouncing baby gorilla and on 28th June Kisho also gave birth to another baby and this increased the number of Mubare group member to 14. This group is credited for its ever rising population from 2012 up to date ever since Kanyonyi succeeded his father. This year alone, about 10 babies have been born in Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National Park with only 1 death recorded and this is something incredible not only for the gorilla family but also to conservationists.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in Southwestern Uganda and it extends to about 331 square kilometers with elevation of nearly 2607 meters. Looking at the previous gorilla census in 2010, there was a rise in the number of these Great Apes from 786 to current 900 compared to the 620 individuals that thrived in the 1990s.  Uganda alone offers refuge to over half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas and they are mainly thriving within Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. This drastic increase is attributed to vibrant conservation measures, with their habitats being well preserved and managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) who have also facilitated adjacent local residents (communities) with better education, clean water and sanitation, healthcare, employment (as park rangers, guides and others) all of which comes as a result of gorilla tourism and conservation in their area.

In an estimate, the population increase in these Great Ape has been at 10 percent within a period of 2 (two) years. In 2011, over 400 gorillas were estimated to thrive in the jungles of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and this represents about half of the world’s population of the mountain gorillas. Bwindi National Park has over 36 gorilla groups with 16 solitary silverbacks and 11 of the gorilla groups have been habituated for tourism and research purposes. They include Mubare, Rushegura and Habinyanja group that are tracked in Buhoma area of Bwindi National Park; Bitukura, Oruzogo and Kyaguriro in Ruhija region; Bweza, Mishaya, Kahungye, Nshongi, Busingye in Rushaga region and not excluding Bushaho and Bikingi that have been set for Gorilla Habituation Experience; Nkuringo group in Nkuringo area and the Nyakagezi group which is the only habituated group that is set for gorilla trekking in Mgahinga National Park.

The next mountain gorilla census is divided into 2 (two) parts, the first one will commence in March and the second will be carried out in October 2018. However, the genetic analysis will give accurate information when data capture is complete and this will guide in deriving gorilla conservation measures for the future. Mountain gorillas have the lowest production rate and yet they are also highly at a risk of extinction in the wild. With several threats to mountain gorillas, particularly civil wars, habitat loss, human infectious diseases, mineral exploration, poaching, it was thought that these endangered species would get extinct by end of the 20th century but thanks to the committed conservation authorities and conservation strategies to save their lives in the wild that there has been an increase in the population of these unique wild creatures.

These critically endangered apes have managed to thrive mainly due to strict conservation measures. Conservation areas in Uganda are well managed and resourced compared to the past times and there is a lot more being done to curb down the threats affecting the survival of mountain gorillas, other wildlife species and their habitat not only in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park or Mgahinga National Park but also across gorilla protected areas. Conservation efforts to save the mountain gorillas has been through a collective effort from park authorities and the adjacent communities and through this, there has been some kind of balance in needs where the interests of the poor locals are also looked at as one way to promote tourism and conservation.

In conclusion, given the continued research and monitoring by Uganda Wildlife Authority staff and Gorilla Conservation Organizations and not to exclude a collective mountain gorilla habitat management, the number of these critically endangered apes will keep increasing. The rise in the population of gorillas is of great success to conservationists, gorilla family and for the tourists the more gorillas the more gorilla groups will be habituated and hence boosting visitor experiences in the destination.

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