Kampala — Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has started a mountain gorilla census as it seeks to improve conservation of one of Uganda's largest foreign exchange earners and most endangered species.
Uganda has half of (320) the world's gorilla population with the largest number inhibited in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park south west of Uganda. It is estimated that there are about 720 gorillas living in the Virunga ranges that are shared by Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo.
According to Ms Martha Robbins, a German expert and the census lead: "This will be used for generic analysis to provide accurate estimates." The census is comprised of experts from Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo, who will traverse the 331 square kilometres stretch. This is the fourth gorilla census conducted after Bwindi was gazetted as a national park in 1991. In 1997, there were about 300 gorillas which increased to 320 in 2002.
Mr Pontious Ezuma, the Bwindi conservation manager, said the census will be an important aspect for the more than 15,112 gorilla trackers that toured Uganda, according to 2017 tourism data. The $100,000 (about Sh280m) exercise is funded by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme.
Dropped: The number of gorilla trackers has been increasing annually, save for 1999 when it dropped from 2,437 to 2,111 after the killing of eight tourists by suspected Interahamwe rebels.