New survey of mountain gorillas underway in Uganda

March 28, 2018 by Sarah Rakowski, Fauna & Flora International
Credit: Fauna & Flora International

A team of researchers is currently combing through the forests of the aptly named Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for signs of mountain gorillas. This is part of a major effort to understand the conservation status of this great ape and other wildlife that shares its habitat.

Once complete, the survey data will be analysed and combined with the results of a similar census in the Virunga Massif – the only other place on earth where are found – in order to give a complete picture on how these animals are faring.

But gathering this information is no mean feat. In addition to Bwindi's rugged terrain – dense vegetation and narrow valleys intersected by rivers and steep hills – the 52-strong research team will also have to contend with the elusive nature of Bwindi's unhabituated .

Because these unhabituated gorillas are rarely seen (and therefore cannot be counted directly), the researchers will rely on signs of gorilla trails and nest sites. They will collect samples of gorilla faeces from each nest they encounter, which will then be sent for genetic analysis to enable a more accurate population estimate.

"Although we have a good understanding about the status of habituated gorillas, it takes systematic surveys like the two censuses in Bwindi and the Virungas to get an accurate picture of what is happening for this critically endangered subspecies," explained Anna Behm Masozera – Director of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP), which is coordinating the research together with the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration and other partners.

As well as searching for gorilla signs, the team will also be recording traces of other large mammals that share their habitat as well as collecting data on illegal activities within the park. The latter will then be analysed alongside the gorilla records to see whether human activities are affecting gorilla distribution and behaviour.

The Bwindi census is just one facet of the work being supported by players of People's Postcode Lottery as part of a new £250,000 award to Fauna & Flora International, which together with WWF forms the IGCP coalition.

People's Postcode Lottery's Head of Charities, Clara Govier, said: "Ever since Attenborough introduced mountain gorillas to viewers around the world, people have been captivated by these gentle giants. Fauna & Flora International has been working to protect mountain gorillas for many years and has played a vital part in the successes seen to date. We are thrilled to be joining forces with them to build on these achievements and help ensure that gorillas – along with the many other endangered species that FFI works to protect – continue to thrive long into the future."

Explore further: New census critical for mountain gorillas in Virunga

Related Stories

New census critical for mountain gorillas in Virunga

October 7, 2015

A new census of mountain gorillas in the Virunga Massif will help gauge the impact of conservation work in the area and play a vital role in guiding future efforts to safeguard the critically endangered great ape and its ...

Mountain gorilla population grows

December 7, 2010

The population of mountain gorillas in their main central African habitat has increased by a quarter in seven years, regional authorities said Tuesday.

Trekking tourists to become wild gorilla guardians

June 23, 2014

An online awareness raising campaign has been launched in a bid to minimise the risk of disease transmission from human to gorilla during treks to see these magnificent great apes in the wild.

Countries renew plan to protect mountain gorillas

April 8, 2014

The three countries home to mountain gorillas have agreed on new measures to conserve the critically endangered animals, and to maximize the economic benefits they bring to local communities.

Recommended for you

Solar panels for yeast cell biofactories

November 15, 2018

Genetically engineered microbes such as bacteria and yeasts have long been used as living factories to produce drugs and fine chemicals. More recently, researchers have started to combine bacteria with semiconductor technology ...

Orangutan mothers found to engage in displaced reference

November 15, 2018

A pair of researchers with the University of St Andrews has observed orangutan mothers engaging in displaced reference after observation of a perceived threat. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, Adriano ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.