The population of mountain gorillas in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest national park now stands at 459 up from 400 in 2011, a new census report released this week indicates.
The survey was conducted by the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration, a coalition of governments of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); non-profit organisations and conservationists.
The survey found that the 459 mountain gorillas in Bwindi live in 50 groups and that there is a presence of 13 solitary individuals.
The gorilla groups have also increased from 36 in 2011 to 50 in 2018.
The global population of gorillas stands at 1,063 including those in the Virunga mountain range in Rwanda and DRC, with Uganda being home to over 50 per cent of this global population in its Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks.
The mountain gorillas can only be found in these three countries.
Last year, a similar survey of the Virunga mountain gorilla population found an increase of the number of gorillas in this area from 480 to 604 over a five-year period.
While launching the census results, Uganda’s Tourism Minister Prof Ephraim Kamuntu said the increase in the gorilla numbers, although slow, shows how much Uganda is committed to conservation.
“Without the efforts of the government, the 50 per cent of the world’s gorilla population that we boast about would have been wiped out,” Prof Kamuntu said.
He added that the government has dedicated about 10 of its total land size to conserving wildlife.
Although the numbers of the gorillas are increasing, conservationists worry that there are still potential dangers to the species in the region.
These range from poachers who trap them with snares, disease, climate change and habitat encroachment which puts the survival of the mountain gorillas at risk.
In 2018, the official status of the mountain gorilla was downgraded from critically endangered — the highest level of threat- to endangered.
The mountain gorilla is Uganda’s biggest tourism attraction bringing in over 30,000 tourists annually to particularly track them.
Uganda’s tourism revenue has been steadily growing in the past years and currently. In 2018 the country U earned $1.6 billion from tourism.
A gorilla permit in Uganda costs $600 and can be bought directly from the Uganda Wildlife Authority or through tourism agents.
The same permit costs $1,500 in Rwanda and $400 in DRC — the cheapest in the region.
However, Rwanda takes the lion’s share of gorilla tourism as it remains at the centre of marketing of the country as a tourist destination in the East African region.