The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has launched a new census of the mountain gorilla population in Bwindi impenetrable national park to assess their numbers and document information on poaching and other illegal activities.
The census is also intended to estimate the population of other mammals like bush pigs, elephants, and monkeys and human activities in the park for planning and conservation purposes.
The census if funded by the international gorilla conservation programme, a global agency dedicated to protecting gorillas and their habitat, to the tune of $100,000 (about sh280m).
According to Martha Robbins, the German expert leading the census, the team counts gorilla nests, other than individual gorillas, and collect their feaces. The feaces will be used for generic analysis which, she said, provides the most accurate estimates.
The team, comprising of Ugandans, Rwandese and DR Congo wildlife experts traverses the entire 331sq.km forest in a zigzag style in search for fresh gorilla trails until their nests are found and counted.
This is the fourth gorilla census conducted since Bwindi was gazetted a national park in 1991 and declared a Natural World Heritage Site by Unesco in December 1994. The first census of 1997 revealed 300 gorillas while the number increased to 320 in 2002.
However, in 2006 when the generic census analysis was first introduced, the number fell to 300. Robbins could not give projections for this year, saying the results would come out next year after the generic analysis is completed at a laboratory at Germany-based Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
Journalists and UWA wardens climb the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park hills in the 2011 gorilla census exercise
Mountain gorillas, the backbone of Uganda’s tourism industry, are critically endangered, with only 720 individuals remaining in the world. These live in the three countries of Uganda, Rwanda and DRC.
Bwindi Park harbours half of the gorilla population and the remainder roams the Virunga ranges shared by the three countries.
Pontious Ezuma, the conservation manager for Bwindi, said the number of tourists tracking gorillas has increased from 1,313 in 1993 to 15,112 last year.
The number is expected to increase even further, thanks to three more gorilla groups which UWA is to open. The groups, including Oruzogo, Kahunge and Mishaya, which Ezuma said would be launched next month, habour over 60 newly habituated gorillas.
This will bring the number of habituated gorilla groups in the park to 10, one of which is reserved for only research purposes. With each group accommodating eight tourists daily, it means that the park’s annual capacity would increase from 20,440 to 26,280 tourists.
The number of gorilla-tracking tourists has been increasing annually, save for 1999 when it dropped from 2,437 in 1998 to 2,111. This arose after the killing of eight foreign tourists by the Interahamwe rebels from the DRC. Since then, the Government has tightened security arround the park, which Ezuma said is key for tourism growth.
As published by the New vision by Francis Kagolo
One of the senior adult female mountain Gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park,
Bwiruka has died barely three months after the oldest male, Ruhondeza of Mubare Group passed on.
She was known to be playful, friendly and even cheeky, but sadly, at the age of about 30, Bwiruka,
a female gorilla has died. One of the most senior adult female mountain Gorillas of Bwindi
Impenetrable National Park, Bwiruka has died barely three months after the oldest male, Ruhondeza
Bwiruka, who has been a dominant female in the 34-member Nshongi family, was found dead by trackers on Monday, according to officials of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
A necropsy (postmortem for non-humans) is being performed to determine the cause of her death
though UWA officials say Bwiruka, whose name in Rukiga means "one who knows how to run," had
recently grown frail and was sighted trailing the rest of the group with difficulty.
"Bwiruka has for the last few weeks been walking and feeding with difficulty, a clear sign that she
has not been feeling well," said the Acting Chief Conservation area manager at UWA Mr Charles
Tumwesigye. "She was about 30 years which is very old age for females because giving birth makes
them weaker than the males. It is very sad because her death means the number of mountain gorillas
has gone down by one."
Mountain gorillas, especially the males, can live up to about 50 years in habituation while their
average life span in the wild is 35 years. Habituated gorillas are more closely guarded by field
staff and receive veterinary treatment for snares, respiratory diseases, and other life-threatening
UWA officials say during her hey days, Bwiruka was the male gorillas' favourite lady, thanks to her
playful character. She could be spotted in secret trysts with the family top males, Bweza and
Mishaya. "We all mourn the death of this special member of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park," Mr
The gorilla trackers will miss Bwiruka just as much as her family members. The secret of Bwiruka's
appeal seemed to be her light-hearted ways given that most adult females are not given to
As the Nshongi Family became more accustomed to the company of the trackers, Bwiruka would be known to playfully harass men. She could set up an ambush and 'attack' the trackers, leaving them bewildered, unharmed and laughing at the fact that she had pulled a fast one on them. Bwiruka will be laid to rest in the park after the necropsy has been performed.
The Great Virunga Trans-boundary Core Secretariat (GVTCS) has revealed that it has set aside money to construct five more tanks neighboring sub-counties of Mgahinga to curb the water scarcity in the area. This was revealed by the Executive Secretary of GVTCS Mr. Sam Mwadha at the commissioning of four water tanks constructed in the sub- counties of Muramba and Nyarusiza in Kisoro district to reduce water scarcity in the villages adjacent to park. The tanks were launched by the Ag.Executive Director UWA Dr. Andrew Seguya on behalf of the secretariat.