Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Africa's Mountain Gorilla Numbers on the Rise

A mountain gorilla in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park

Recently, a census reported that the numbers of endangered mountain gorillas in central Africa's Virunga Massif have rose by 26.3% since 2003. At first their were 380 animals, and now that number has soared to up to 480 thanks to increased efforts in reducing illegal poaching and disease. However, it is not a sign to show that the battle in saving the endangered primates is over. The Virunga Massif is a 450-square kilometer range that consists of three primary gorilla hotspots: Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, and Virunga National Park in Congo.

The census, which was conducted in March and April this year, reported that the gorilla population is growing at a rate of 3.7% a year. According to Martha Robbins, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, the key driver to such success is the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP). The organization had been engaging local communities in projects such as beekeeping and making handicrafts for tourists, in order to develop economically in 2003. She further added that veterinarians have been monitoring the gorillas for several hours every day, and treating the ill and injured individuals. Eugene Rutagarama, director of IGCP, stated that the other important factor in protecting the animals was an increase in forest guards and patrols in Volcanoes National Park.  Many had access to radios and patrol cars, in order to thwart the poachers.

Since 2002, Rwanda's national parks underwent a reconstructing process in which more rangers on better salaries, radios, patrol cars, and better wildlife conservation training were provided. This has also led to more shelters being built from which the rangers could protect the gorillas. That same year, the governments of Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo had signed a memorandum of understanding but that did not help join the three nations together. They are currently looking over a new treaty, which will legally bring them together in protecting the gorillas.

I'm extremely proud and happy to see what a fantastic job the governments of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda have been doing regarding each other's gorilla population. Veterinarians have been looking out for the animals and treating any that were either sick or injured and anti-poaching patrols have increased with result of more resources provided in combating the poachers. Also, many local communities have been engaging in more beneficial alternatives to poaching or habitat degradation in order to make a good living in their homelands. But what really amazed me is that all three of these nations are going through a new treaty of alliance in protecting the apes. I sure hope that this treaty will go into effect because that way, these three nations will help each other out in protecting their gorilla populations and keeping the poachers off their wild places. All in all, this is good news both for conservationists and gorillas.

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