Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
According to WWF, the population of mountain gorillas increased by more than 25 percent in Central African Parks between 2003 and 2010. Now, gorilla conservationists in Rwanda have more reason to celebrate: The extremely rare birth of twins to a mother called Kabatwa.
Threatened by poaching, war, habitat loss, and the bushmeat trade, the population of the critically endangered mountain gorilla is thought to number only 790 individuals.Of the fewer-than 1,000 gorillas surviving in the wild, two thirds of them live in the Virunga massif, a volcanic mountain chain that stretches across Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In 40 years of monitoring in Rwanda, only five instances of twins have been recorded. "It's uncommon among the population of gorillas," Prosper Uwingeli, chief warden at the Volcanoes National Park said, "and very few cases of twins have been documented in the wild or captivity."
The good news comes just a few weeks after three park rangers and five soldiers were killed, allegedly by rebel forces, while trying to secure passage through Virunga National Park in Congo. In all, more than 130 rangers have been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1996 and some researchers believe gorillas could be extinct there by the mid-2020s.
Meanwhile, in Rwanda, the mountain gorillas play a star role in a rapidly expanding eco-tourism industry. "Every birth is an important step towards achieving our vision," CEO of Rwandan Development Board John Gara said on World Environment Day, "to see the mountain gorillas move from being one of the the world's most endangered species to being some of the world's most protected animals."
Read more about mountain gorillas:
Mountain Gorilla Population Increases 25% in Central African National Parks
In Rwanda, Saving Mountain Gorillas by Naming Them, on World Environment Day (Slideshow)
Mountain Gorillas Caught in the Middle of DR Congo Fighting, Park Rangers Forced to Flee