A silverback gorilla in Bwindi.By Molly Feltner, MGVP Communications Officer

A new census is underway to count the number of mountain gorillas living in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda. Counting will also be attempted in the contiguous Sarambwe Nature Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo if the security situation allows it. During the last census of the region in 2006, 302 mountain gorillas were confirmed through genetic testing. An additional 480 mountain gorillas live in the Virunga Massif, which is geographically isolated from Bwindi. 

The census is being conducted by the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature with support from the Rwanda Development Board, local governments and partner organizations including the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP, a coalition of the African Wildlife Foundation, Fauna & Flora International, and the World Wide Fund for Nature), Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Conservation Through Public Health, the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, the Institute for Tropical Forest Conservation, and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund – International.

Six census teams composed of staff members from the participating organizations are systematically sweeping the forest, following gorilla trails, counting night nests, and collecting fecal samples for genetic analysis. The census results will likely be published nine to 12 months after the fieldwork is completed.

Dr. Fred takes notes on the gorillas.Our own Dr. Fred recently completed a two-week sweep of the forest with his team. He writes:

I was leader of Team 1 Northern group and I handled all communications, requests, updates, and general planning on a day-to-day basis. I enjoyed the experience of the census, which combined the ‘sweep method’ of counting gorilla nests and collecting samples for genetic analysis. We also did “Recce trails” — combing the whole forest for gorilla trails, other big mammals in the forest, and illegal activities in the park. We did ‘Recce’ using a map, compass, and GPS. My team and Martha Robbins from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology were great.

Funding for the census is coming from the World Wide Fund for Nature-Sweden via the International Gorilla Conservation Programme with supplemental support coming from Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe e.V. and the Wildlife Conservation Society. 

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