Kigali — As an effort to strengthen conservation of the mountain gorillas, Rwanda will join neighbouring countries and partners to make an accurate count of the total gorilla population in the Virunga Volcanoes.
According to a statement from the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP), Rwanda will collaborate with Uganda's Wildlife and National Park Authorities as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to conduct the census slated to begin March 1 and end in April.
The count will also help determine the genetic variability and health status of the gorilla population as well as measure the effects of the recent history of conflict in the region on such a small population of critically endangered animals.
"Though the area is now relatively calm, recent conflicts in the Mikeno sector of Virunga National Park in the DRC has left the gorillas there vulnerable," the statement adds.
According to Eugene Rutagarama, the director of IGCP, which is also a partner in the exercise, the census will enable partner-states to assess the impact of conservation efforts carried out by all gorilla conservation stakeholders.
"We are hoping that the census will confirm a continuous increase of the mountain gorilla population and guide us on how we can further contribute to the growth of this still endangered population," Rutagarama is quoted as saying.
The exercise is supported by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (a coalition of AWF, WWF and FFI), the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
Virunga Volcanoes is one of only two habitats where mountain gorillas live, whose total numbers are currently estimated at 680 individuals.
The last Virunga Volcanoes census that was done in 2003 resulted in an estimate of 380 individuals, with the remaining individuals living in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park of Uganda.