Protection Efforts Help Mountain Gorilla Population Grow

22 November, 2018

Africa's mountain gorilla population has been decreasing for many years. But now, wildlife groups say their numbers are finally rising.

The mountain gorillas live in protected forest areas in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But they have faced the danger of disappearing as their population steadily fell.

The gorillas' environment has been threatened by human agriculture production in surrounding areas. Other threats include illegal hunting, civil unrest and human-introduced diseases.

In this file photo from Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, a baby mountain gorilla is held by its mother in the forest in Volcanoes National Park, northern Rwanda. (AP Photo)
In this file photo from Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, a baby mountain gorilla is held by its mother in the forest in Volcanoes National Park, northern Rwanda. (AP Photo)

The mountain gorilla had been included on an endangered "Red List" published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN. It was listed as "critically endangered." On November 14, the Switzerland-based group changed that listing to "endangered."

In 2008, the mountain gorilla population was estimated to be around 680. In 2018, IUCN estimates showed the number had increased to more than 1,000.

IUCN officials noted the new growth was fueled by increased and improved conservation programs. Several nations had cooperated to create effective conservation efforts, the organization said in a statement. This led to "positive engagement from communities living around the mountain gorilla habitat," the statement said.

Tara Stoinski is president and chief scientist of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. The not-for-profit group is based in Atlanta, Georgia. It is named after the researcher whose work helped bring international attention to mountain gorillas. The organization has been involved in conservation programs.

Stoinski called the IUCN findings a great "conservation success." In a statement, she said mountain gorillas have experienced some of the highest levels of protection of any animal in history. "This is the type of extreme conservation required if we want to ensure a future for wildlife," she added.

The conservation efforts included increased enforcement measures against illegal hunting and emergency health care for injured gorillas, the IUCN said.

One not-for-profit group called Gorilla Doctors keeps medical workers in each of the countries where mountain gorillas live. They are called to treat animals with disease or carry out rescues when gorillas are caught in traps set for other animals.

The IUCN also announced that populations of the threatened fin whale are also on the rise. The group said bans on commercial whaling in the North Pacific Ocean and elsewhere had helped some of the populations grow. The fin whale appeared on the Red List as "endangered," but that has been changed to "vulnerable."

I'm Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on a report by the Associated Press and online sources. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

extinction n. when a type of animal no longer exists

critically adj. extremely serious or dangerous

conservation n. the protection of nature

engagement n. the act or state of being involved in something

habitat –n. the place or kind of place where a plant or animal naturally or normally lives

type –n. a particular kind or group of things or people

commercial adj. related to buying and selling things

vulnerable adj. easy to harm or attack