Census confirms increase in population of the critically endangered Mountain Gorillas

10 Jan

Threatened Mountain Gorilla ( Gorilla beringei.beringei ) photo taken by Cheryl Mares and donated to the RFCG

Many of  our Rare Finch Conservation Group supporters already know that the threatend and elusive Shelley’s crimsonwing finch, that we are so desperately trying to find, lives in the same area and habitat as the critically endangered Mountain Gorillas of Africa. The following blog was posted on the 7 December 2010 on the International Gorilla Conservation Group Programme ( IGCP ) website

 ” The number on one of the world’s most charismatic and endangered species is in.

The analysis of the census conducted in March and April 2010 indicates that there were a total of 480 mountain gorillas, Gorilla beringei beringei, in 36 groups along with 14 solitary silverback males in the Virunga Massif, which includes three contiguous national parks: Parc National des Virunga in DRC, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. The only other location where mountain gorillas exist is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.

Along with the 302 mountain gorillas censused in Bwindi in 2006 and four orphaned mountain gorillas in a sanctuary in DRC, this brings the total world population to 786 individuals.

The last census undertaken in the Virunga Massif was in 2003, when the population was estimated at 380 individuals. The current figure represents a 26.3 % increase in the population of mountain gorillas in this area over the last seven years, which is a 3.7 % annual growth rate. This increase in the population occurred despite the killing of no less than nine mountain gorillas, in four separate incidents, during this time period.

Of the 480 mountain gorillas censused, 352 (73%) were habituated (349 in groups and three solitary males) and 128 were unhabituated (117 in groups and 11 solitary males).

A baby Mountain Gorilla . Photo taken by Cheryl Mares and donated to the RFCG

This population has made an absolutely remarkable recovery from the approximately 250 individuals that existed only three decades ago. This recovery is due to the relentless collaborative efforts of many organizations and institutions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda,” stated Dr. Augustin Basabose, Coordinator of Species at the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP).

The census itself was an exercise in collaboration, and IGCP played a lead role in attracting support for the census and coordinating all participating institutions and organizations. Over 1,000 kilometers were systematically walked by six mixed teams of seventy-two people from DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda. Teams covered the entire range and meticulously documented fresh signs of mountain gorilla groups. Genetic analysis of fecal samples collected were analyzed to identify and correct for any double-counting of individuals or groups, ensuring the most accurate estimate for the population. ”

Shelley's crimsonwing finch ( Cryptospiza shelleyi ). Currently the world's only known photograph . Visual courtesy http://www.gorilla.org

It is interesting to note that Birdlife International in the IUCN Red Data book  list the Shelley’s Crimsonwing finch ( Cryptospiza shelleyi ) as vulnerable . ( a high risk of extinction with less than 10,000 left  ). It is sad to think that today less is known abouth the elusive Shelley’s crimsonwing finch than is known about the remarkable conservation work of threatened Mountain Gorillas . Currently only one photograph exists in the world of the Shelley’s crimsonwing finch .If you would like to find out more about the work that the Rare Finch Conservation Group is doing then please contact Eelco Meyjes at editor@avitalk.co.za or purchase a copy of the recently released fund raising DVD titled: Searching for Shelley’s finches amongst Africas Mountain Gorillas.

Fund raising DVD titled : Searching for Shelley's finches amongst Africa's Mountain Gorillas

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