How Mountain Gorilla Census Is Done
Here is How Mountain Gorilla Census Is Done, Taking the mountain gorillas census is one of the ways to determine the purpose of conservation in the Virunga area. In the 1980s, the Dian Fossey team conducted a census that determined that about 250 mountain gorillas were living in the world.
This placed the mountain gorillas on the International Union For Conservation Of Nature (IUCN) list of world critically endangered species. The mountain gorillas are some of the most worldly protected primates that require special attention.
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After there plight was brought to the world scene, a number of domestic and international non-profit nature conservation organizations were concerned and picked interest in mountain gorilla conservation.
The World Wide Fund For Nature, Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Uganda Wildlife Authority, Rwanda Development Board, Gorilla Doctors, Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature, Mammalian Ecology and Conservation Unit of the UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and others
The most resent gorilla census in Bwindi impenetrable National park and Sarambwe Nature Reserve was conducted in 2018 determining that about 1063 mountain gorillas are living in the world. The mountain gorillas have been pulled from the brink of extinction by extreme conservation.
This success in increasing the mountain gorilla population is attributed to great efforts for all stakeholders, collaboration of the three countries that harbor the mountain gorillas and so much more.
This success of mountain gorilla conservation has led to a tremendous increase in the number of mountain gorillas families open for tourists viewing.
Uganda currently has 19 habituated gorilla families some of them include Oruzogo family, Habinyanja family, Bweza family, Kyagurilo family, Nkuringo family, Christimas, Kahungye family and others. These meander through two parks that is Bwindi Impenetrable National park and Mgahinga National park.
In Rwanda there so far 13 gorilla families open for tourism. Some of them include group 13, Amahoro family, Umubano family, Hirwa family and others. They live in Volcanoes National park.
D.R.Congo has 6 gorilla trekking families but because of civil unrest in this part of the country, its hard to habituate more numbers of gorilla families Some of these families include Munyaga gorilla family, Kabirizi gorilla family, Mapuwa gorilla family, Rugendo gorilla family, Humba gorilla family, and Lulengo gorilla family.
The methods used to collect data during mountain gorilla census included collecting fecal for genetic analysis and gorilla state of health analytics, sweep method that involved mark- capture and recapture method.
At some point, counting the number of constructed gorilla nests is thought to have brought inaccurate results as some mountain gorillas make more than one nest for the night.
For this reason, about three days of counting nests are used to collect the right information required. Using the one sweep doesn’t bring the true results because some solitary gorillas especially the male or small gorilla families may be left out
A team of mountain gorillas researchers, data collectors and others spend time counting the nests where the mountain gorillas overnight, collect and measure fecal matter, collect hairs found in the nests in order to determine the population of mountain gorillas.
The fecal matter is also used to identify the DNA of a particular gorillas and compared with others to get its relatives. Although in most cases the population of habituated mountain gorillas in families is known, the data about unhabituated gorillas numbers is challenging to collect.
Some of the reasons for conducting the mountain gorilla census was to know the progress of conservation, understand the impact of the threats they face, determine human interference on the mountain gorillas and there habitat, check health status of the mountain gorillas and much more.
Part from the mountain gorillas, this census also brought-out the number of other wild animals that live in the park. Some of them include elephants, duikers, giant forest hogs, buffaloes, waterbucks, bushbucks, wild pigs and others. Apart from the mountain gorillas, even others primates like golden monkeys were recorded, black and white colobus, vervet monkeys, olive baboons, chimpanzees, grey-cheeked mangabey to mention but a few.
How Mountain Gorilla Census was Done During Dian Fossey Time
At 11:30, peanuts part vegetation to peer at 6m below. He stares for three minutes then sits and scratches. A tear-shaped drainage is still visible from his right eye wound. After a soft slur/hoot at 11:08, he moves to within 4m. he stands at 11:15 and moves to within 2m and sits at 11:17…. At 11:22 he gives a brief hoot/chest beat before moving to 1m away: there he knuckle-stands for 2 minutes before placing his right hand 6 inches from obs.
At that point, peanuts’ downtrodden physical appearance, his lack of any family or companion s, and his apparent interest in social contact across species lines led Bill to place his hand over peanuts’ and give it a few pats. He couldn’t know what that gesture of intended consolation meant to a gorilla, but the silverback sat down beside him. For the next ten minutes, peanuts remained with arm’s reach, distractedly grooming himself and casting occasional glances towards Bill.
With any extended eye contact , he would turn shyly away , then look up and around as he scratched his massive chin , producing a sound like a fork scraping thick boot leather .
Whatever peanuts might have been thinking, a flash of brilliant crimson from the under wing of a passing Ruwenzori turaco jolted him into action. Moving several meets away, he inserted himself into a thick clump of vegetation and spent most of the next hour busily consuming vast quantities of lush thistle and celery.
As peanuts finally ambled off through the undergrowth, Bill felt both privileged and saddened: privileged to have felt the powerful bond of close contact initiated by peanuts, yet sad that he was the sole such contact that peanuts might have for months or even years.
We had already seen enough of gorillas to appreciate that they were supremely social creatures. The solitary male might be an evolutionary in a polygamous society, but peanuts was a tragic figure nonetheless.
ADDING THE RESEARCH and peripheral group to the earlier count from karisimbi, Bill reached a total of fifty-eight gorillas. To learn any more he had to move beyond the Karisoke contact zone, establish a series of base camps, and conduct multiday censuses of the remaining wild gorillas.
Bill and Rwelekana shouldered their heavy packs and followed the trail north from Karisoke through an open forest dominated by the contorted shapes of giant Hagenia trees.
Uprooted trunks littered the grassy glades, highlighting the risk of growing at such precarious angles with heavy loads of mosses and epiphytes. In death , many of these trees had felt the axe of the karisoke woodcutters.
The trail skirted the saturated edge of the upper meadow before leaving the broad saddle to rise through dense stands of five foot-tall strings nettles in the heart of group 4’s range. Climbing high into more rugged terrain, Bill and Rwelekana left the nettles behind. Mt Visoke’s steep slopes are cut every few hundred meters by sharply eroded ravines.
Ranging in size from mere clefts to minor canyons, they were lumped as bonds in the simplified Swahili spoken at karisoke. Most were given names muti kufa(dead tree), ndege(bird) and kulala(sleep) ravines were all within the range of group 4. Next came the more evocatively named bonde ya chui(leopard), bonde ya kujiua(suicide), bonde mkubwa(grand canyon)and the world of unhabituated gorillas beyond.
Rwelekana knew this area from his eight years of experience at karisoke and led Bill unerringly to the best crossing site for each ravine. Beyond the leopard cave at 10270 feet on the edge of bonde mkubwa. The Grand Canyon was named for its boxlike shape and sheer walls with few transit points.
Leaving our packs, we climbed a rocky ridge along the canyon’s western flanks the footing was slippery and the gnarled giant health required that Bill maintain his six-foot-two frame in a constantly stooped posture. Still the ridge provided an excellent view into the canyon bottom a few hundred meters below, where Rwelekana’s expert eyes search of any recent gorilla’s passage.
The basic technique for a gorilla census is to walk up and down the ridges and ravines of each volcano in a systematic fashion looking for trail signs. As gorillas move through the thick herbaceous vegetation in which they find most of their preferred food species, even lone silverbacks leave a path of bent and broken plants. Larger groups may flatten a wider trail, but the passage of many individuals leaves a deeper and longer lasting mark.
The easiest way to find these trails is to walk along a ridge and look for telltale cuts through the herbaceous mat that colonize the exposed side and bottom of the ravines below.
Peering into Grand Canyon, Rwelekana did not take long to find what he was searching for ikonjia ya ingagi. A gorilla trail. Even Bill’s less experienced eyes could detect the dark line of flattened plants that curved through the undergrowth perhaps eighty meters below.
But he was not prepared for the silverback who soon emerged at the head of that line. We not only had the great good fortune to come across fresh trail on our first day out, but the gorillas themselves were immediately visible.
At 12:30, a silverback crosses the bottom of the canyon followed by 2 adults and a juvenile/young adult silverback chest beats as I descend…. While these 4 climb far side, at least 4 others remain on S side and are climbing back up towards me…. An adult female with pursed lips plays rear guard, climbing out on limb of a large Hagenia; from there she chest beat and slaps trunk frequently … at 12:52 a YA with prominent wart joins ‘’purser’’ in the tree , followed by a juvenile at 12:55. Both chest beats and slap trunk… a second Silverback crashes through on near side
Purser is on her way down at 13:03 as Silverback crashes through group and moves into canyon; all follow. I remain above and climb out on a limb to get a better view and count as they cross to the far slope. Between 13:08 -13:12 I count 8 more individuals. added to the 4 already across this makes a group composition of 12:2 silverbacks , 7 adults, 1 young adult, and 2 juveniles. They move out of sight about 80m up the N slope of the canyon and continue to chest beat infrequently.
Rules Of Gorilla Trekking
- Volunteer to stay behind if you realize having caught a communicable infection because mountain gorillas are susceptible to these infections.
- Never provoke the mountain gorillas when you meet them. They have mood swings too despite there serene nature.
- When with the mountain gorillas do not surround them because they may feel ambushed.
- Keep a gap of about 8 meters from the mountain gorillas when you meet them. This is to avoid chances of spreading any infection to the mountain gorillas.
- Do not use flash photography when taking photos of the mountain gorillas. They are always fearful of new occurrences in there vicinity.
- Avoid eating or smoking while in front of the mountain gorillas do it atleast 200m meters away from them. you may not know what would result from this.
- In case you feel like sneezing, do it away from the mountain gorillas to avoid spreading any infections to the mountain gorillas.
- Never litter the forest as this is the feeding ground for the mountain gorillas where they pick food. In case you throw any garbage, it may alter the nature of the forest that is the food basket for the mountain gorillas.
- Spitting on the vegetation is forbidden because it is unhygienic and any infections may be passed to the mountain gorillas through this.
- Age limit for gorilla trekking is 15 years and above because of the huddles you go through to get to the mountain gorillas.
- When with the mountain gorillas do not make loud noise. This scares them and may push them into hiding.
- Only one hour is allowed with the mountain gorillas when you locate them. This helps to give them time to go on with day today activities.
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