By Jonathan Benaiah (The Ugandan Tourist)
Breaking News coming in from officials attending the announcement of the 2016 census results of mountain gorillas in the Virunga massif at Lake Kivu Serena in Rubavu Rwanda shows that the shared number of gorillas in the Virungas has increased from 480 individuals in 2010 to 604 individuals in 2016.
This Virunga massif is comprised of three national parks; Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). These figures have been confirmed using sound DNA genotype analysis and have been attributed to sound conservation policies by the 3 Nation States which form the Virunga massif.
The count took over 50 days and during this period it was observed that the mountain gorillas were roaming freely within the chain of mountains (the Virunga massif). The researchers would therefore not succeed in getting correct results had they used the research approach of single sweep through the area, as this could have resulted in counting a single group more than once in more than one country. And this is why they resorted to using the apes’ DNA to establish numbers.
“Physical counting wouldn’t work with reliable level of accuracy for such shared population”, said Dr. Akankwasah Barirega who is the principle wildlife officer at the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities in Uganda. He added that it’s not possible to assign numbers to countries in the Virunga massif because counting doesn’t take place in one day and as you count there is crossing and counter crossing.
It is therefore hard to apportion a given number of mountain gorilla individuals in the Virunga ranges or percentage to a particular country because unlike the mountain gorillas in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park , the Virunga population is one that freely ranges across the three countries and hence any apportioning of percentages would be a hoax.
With these census results, the total mountain Gorilla population is now estimated to have exceeded 1000 individuals and is only pending confirmation after the release of the ongoing Gorilla census in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which from the previous census, had close to half of the world’s mountain gorillas.
If confirmed, this will be a great success for global mountain Gorilla conservation, a species that a few decades ago was approaching extinction.
Till next time, I remain yours truly, The Ugandan Tourist