Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Gorillas in Africa have had a rocky century, with populations suffering from disease outbreaks, habitat loss, and poaching. Thriving trades in charcoal and bushmeat continue to threaten gorillas across the continent but, in some places, civil war and other conflicts makes monitoring and protecting the species nearly impossible.
Such has been the case with the Grauer's gorilla subspecies. Trapped in the crossfire of a civil war in Congo, conservationists feared that a census—if and when it could finally be conducted—would reveal a grim result. Now, with new data finally in, these fears have been eased—it seems that the subspecies has survived the latest conflict.The census, which was conducted in late 2010, found a population of 181 individual Grauer's gorillas in a key sector, up from 168 individuals in 2004. Researchers hope that this number indicates there may be more than 4,000 individuals across the range.
Radar Nshuli, a park warden in Congo, explained:
Given the insecurity that has been present here for so long, we were not sure what we would find...we were very happy to see that all the efforts that our staff and partners have been taking are leading to a growth in the population.
Since the Grauer's gorillas were defined as a distinct subspecies in the 1950s, Wildlife Conservation Society has been monitoring their numbers. In Kahuzi-Biega National Park, where the studies are conducted, the numbers climbed from 223 to 250 individuals between the 1970s and 1990s. Then, the outbreak of civil war in 2000 caused the population to crash to 130 individuals.
"This census finding gives us great hope for the future of the Grauer's gorilla," said Dr. James Deutsch, director of Wildlife Conservation Society's Africa Progran, "it's also a testament to the courage of our colleagues working to protect a World Heritage site in this challenging landscape."