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Protected Mountain Gorilla Population Rises by Ten Percent in Two Years

Conservationists announce good news for mountain gorillas, but the species is not out of the woods just yet

Photo: weesam2010

For once, there’s good news on the species conservation front. The world’s population of mountain gorillas has increased by more than 10 percent in just two years, most likely thanks to conservation efforts that have successfully engaged the local Ugandan community.

Only a few decades ago, The Guardian writes, conservationists predicted that mountain gorillas could be extinct by the end of the 20th century. War, habitat destruction, poaching and disease threatened their population. But since 2010, Uganda’s remaining 786 mountain gorillas have grown their population to 880.

Conservationists think the success story stems from balancing species survival with the needs of local people. Rather than exclude people from the landscape, park managers instead figured out ways to supplement harmful activities with sustainable ones. For example, firewood collection once threatened the gorillas’ habitat, so to get around this conservationists provided communities with access to alternative energy sources so they would no longer have to rely upon forest-harvested wood. They also created jobs for community members to act as ecotourist guides.

Endangered mountain gorillas aren’t out of the woods just yet, however. Habitat loss, disease transfer from humans and entanglement from hunting snares still threaten their populations. Lately, tourism operations have been touch-and-go due to fighting in the region, too. The Guardian ends, unfortunately, on a dire note:

Park authorities have been forced to suspend tourism again after fighting, and last month a Congolese rebel group accused of killings, mass rapes and other atrocities was found to be using the proceeds of gorilla treks to fund its insurgency.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Rare and Intimate Photos of a Gorilla Family in the Wild 
Mountain Gorillas Threatened 

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