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New Study Details How “Extreme” Conservation Is Saving Mountain Gorillas

June 9, 2011

New Study Details How "Extreme" Conservation Is Saving Mountain Gorillas

We are very excited today to be publishing the results of a study showing that the type of "extreme" conservation efforts undertaken to save the mountain gorillas are resulting in positive population growth. These intensive methods are used among the habituated portion of the Virunga mountain gorilla population, such as by the Fossey Fund's Karisoke Research Center, the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, and the Rwandan park authorities, and they include continuous protection and monitoring during daylight hours and veterinary treatment for snares, respiratory diseases and other life-threatening conditions.
So, while wild gorilla populations have suffered dramatic declines in the past two decades, it has now been shown that the type of intensive conservation we undertake in Rwanda at Karisoke and the Volcanoes National Park is working — not only to stem losses but also to verifiably increase the population of the mountain gorillas protected in this way.
This stands in contrast to more "conventional" methods of conservation, which include law enforcement and community development projects, designed to minimize negative human influences upon the animals. For example, in the sector of mountain gorillas in the Virungas that are unhabituated and thus do not receive such "extreme" protection (rather only the more conventional efforts), the population has seen an annual decline. The protected sectors have seen an annual increase.
This study was based upon the decades of research, data (and protection efforts) that were initiated by Dian Fossey at Karisoke, beginning with the first census of the Virunga mountain gorillas in 1971, when their numbers totalled only 275 (they now number 480, according to the latest census).
The study, called "Extreme Conservation Leads to Recovery of the Virunga Mountain Gorillas," was conducted by a team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, the International Gorilla Conservation Program, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, Rwanda's Parc National des Volcans, Congo's ICCN, and the Ugandan Wildlife Authority . Authors were: Martha M. Robbins, Markye Gray, Katie A. Fawcett, Felicia B. Nutter, Prosper Uwingeli, Innocent Mburanumwe, Edwin Kagoda, Augustin Basabose, Tara S. Stoinski, Mike R. Cranfield, James Byamukama, Lucy H. Spelman, Andrew M. Robbins.

Katie Fawcett, Ph.D., Director, Karisoke Research Center