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Mountain gorilla population rising in Uganda, WWF says


A female mountain gorilla sits in the dense jungle canopy on the edge of Uganda's Bwindi National Park on January 29, 2007. Bwindi, or the "Impenetrable Forest" as it is known to many tourists, is home to the majority of Uganda's rare and endangered mountain gorilla population.



The world’s mountain gorilla population has climbed 10 percent in the last two years, according to census data released by the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

After a count in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the estimate stands at 880 from 786 in 2010.

The critically endangered animals live in Bwindi and the Virunga Massif area, which spans parts of Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Rwanda.

Both populations have had positive trends in population growth over the last decade, the WWF-UK said.

“Mountain gorillas are the only great ape experiencing a population increase. This is largely due to intensive conservation efforts and successful community engagement,” said David Greer, WWF’s African Great Ape program manager.

War, habitat loss and disease threaten Africa’s gorillas, but numbers have increased since conservation efforts took hold, The Guardian reported.

“Protected areas are better managed and resourced than they have ever been, and our work is a lot more cross-cutting to address threats – we don’t just work with the animals in the national parks, but also with the people,” Drew McVey, species program manager at WWF-UK, told The Guardian.

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UNESCO – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – considers Uganda’s Impenetrable National Park a world heritage site.

To track gorillas there, tourists pay at least $500, The Associated Press said. According to WWF estimates, the AP said each gorilla generates $1 million in revenue.

In addition to supporting the important surveillance activities of park staff, visitor revenue has been reinvested into community projects such as wells and schools, WWF said.

However, the fight to save the animals continues.

“At least seven Virunga mountain gorillas have been caught in snares this year and two did not survive,” Greer said.

WWF is also concerned about oil exploration in Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park. While oil drilling would not occur directly in gorilla habitat, industrial activity would compromise the integrity of Virunga National Park, Africa’s first national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

An influx of workers and heavy equipment could greatly threaten the park’s prized biodiversity, which also includes elephants, hippos and the rare okapi antelope.

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