DRC: Virunga National Park announces birth of 2 mountain gorillas

The mountain gorilla population has increased fivefold in 40 years but experts say the ecological challenges facing mountain gorillas ‘remain large’.

Mountain gorillas in the jungle at Bukima in Virunga National Park, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in 2015 [File: AFP]

Authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) Virunga National Park have announced the birth of two mountain gorillas, a development further boosting the endangered species’ baby boom under way in the country.

Conservationists have long sought to protect the world heritage site’s mountain gorilla population, even as violence and instability plagued the DRC’s eastern provinces in recent decades.

A male in the “Wilungula family” and a female from the “Humba family” were born on November 15, the park announced on Twitter on Wednesday, bringing the number of gorilla births since January to 16.

The mountain gorilla population has increased fivefold in 40 years in the three countries where they live – the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda.

According to park records, their estimated population was only 58 in 1981, increasing to 131 in 2000, 201 in 2010 and 286 in 2016.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) revised mountain gorillas’ status from “critically endangered” to “endangered” in November 2018.

Park authorities say their conservation success resulted from their so-called “extreme conservation” policy, including “daily close tracking of individual [gorillas] by rangers, trackers and vets”.

The nature reserve estimated its mountain gorilla population at 350 in mid-2021.

The conservation achievements came despite several armed groups operating in the area and targeting local populations.

The park said conservation efforts had “a significant financial cost” and the ecological challenges facing mountain gorillas “remain large” in an area with a high population density, poverty and chronic political instability.

The next comprehensive, cross-border mountain gorilla census is due in 2022.

Source: AFP