KIGALI - A census that was conducted in the Virunga Massif between March and April, this year has shown a 26.3 percent increase of the mountain gorillas over the last seven years, with a 3.7 percent annual growth rate.
The census indicates a total of 480 mountain gorillas in 36 groups along with 14 solitary silverback males in the virunga massif.
Of the 480 gorillas, 352, representing 73 percent, are habituated.
The last census conducted in the massif was in 2003, when the population was estimated at 380 gorillas.
The Virunga Massif covers the three neighbouring national parks spanning the Virunga volcanoes, that cut across three countries.
The parks are Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Parc National des Virunga in DRC and Mgahinga Gorilla National park in Uganda.
Mountain gorillas also exist in the Bwindi impenetrable National Park in Uganda. Speaking at a press briefing yesterday, the head of Tourism and Conservation at Rwanda Development Board, Rica Rwigamba, said that the increase in the mountain gorilla numbers was a sign that the region is now reaping from the conservation efforts sowed on a daily basis.
Rwigamba acknowledged the selfless efforts by the rangers to ensure the safety of the wild life and their habitat.
She also affirmed the renewed commitment by all the stakeholders to ensure the dream of scrapping the mountain gorillas off the world endangered species list.
Authorities say that the census was conducted to provide a benchmark from which to asses the status of the population as a whole, as well as their health levels.
The synthesis of the findings is expected to produce one of the most comprehensive health screenings of any wild ape and will be useful in making comparisons between populations and groups.
The complete results are expected between April and May 2011. During the census, six teams comprised of 72 people from the three countries systematically walked over 1, 000 kilometers throughout the entire range and meticulously documented fresh signs of mountain gorilla groups.
Currently, along with the 302 mountain gorillas counted in 2006 in Bwindi Park and four orphaned gorillas in a sanctuary in DRC, the total known world mountain gorillas’ population is 786.
Mountain gorillas, which have fallen prey to conflict and poaching over the years, were famously brought to the world’s attention by the late Dian Fossey and are one the region’s main tourist attractions.