The Virunga National Park in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo has recorded two new births of mountain gorillas, whose numbers continue to increase thanks to a strategy of “extreme conservation”, the Park said Thursday.
In a tweet, the PNVi announced the birth of a small male observed on November 15 in “the Wilungula family”, as well as that of a baby female in the Humba family, also on the night of 15. These two new arrivals “bring to 16 the number of gorilla births recorded since January”, said the park.
The park estimates that by mid-2021 its mountain gorilla population will be 350 individuals, of which 225, divided into ten groups, are accustomed to the presence of humans. In 1981, their population was estimated at only 58 individuals, the document recalls. “They were 131 in 2000, 201 in 2010, and 286 during the last census in 2016,” it adds, specifying that the next exhaustive and transboundary census is planned for 2022.
In total, in the three countries hosting mountain gorillas (DRC, Uganda, Rwanda), the population of the species has increased fivefold in 40 years, from less than 200 individuals in the 1980s to 1,063 according to an assessment made during previous censuses in 2016 and 2018.
The status of the mountain gorillas was revised in November 2018 by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) from critically endangered to endangered.
The Virunga Park considers that such “conservation success” is the result of a strategy called “extreme conservation”, which involves “on a daily basis, close monitoring of individuals by guards, trackers, and veterinarians”.
This work has been carried out in spite of events sometimes of great violence, in a region that has known wars and exactions of multiple armed groups for more than 25 years.
But “such a conservation effort has a significant financial cost” and, as PNVi points out, “the ecological challenges for mountain gorillas remain high, especially in an area with a very high population density, very high poverty rates and chronic political instability.