Count of mountain gorillas begins in Uganda
Ugandan wildlife officials and staff of conservation organizations today began a census of critically endangered mountain gorillas living in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. According to the most recent population estimate there are 786 mountain gorillas remaining in the wilds of Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.
Mountain gorilla populations are growing slowly, thanks largely to conservation efforts such as anti-poaching patrols, habituation projects and veterinary monitoring. However, poaching, live capture, conflict with humans, and habitat destruction continue to threaten the endangered animals.
In June, a Bwindi gorilla was killed after an altercation with men who were illegally hunting in the park. Regrettably, the men were released after paying paltry fines ranging from $19 to $38. The magistrate in the case said there was insufficient evidence to link the men to the crime scene.
"With fewer than 800 mountain gorillas left, it is essential that every individual be protected from harm," says David Greer, WWF's African Ape Programme Coordinator. "Through our partner the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, we are working closely with rangers and law enforcement investigators to ensure that when a wildlife crime does occur, evidence is handled properly so prosecutors can make a strong case in court."
Each mountain gorilla is estimated to generate $1 million per year in tourist revenue for the Ugandan economy. Recognising that value, punishments there for wildlife crimes tend to be stricter than in other gorilla range countries.
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