Two new groups of mountain gorillas are being habituated for tourism and research in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
The groups, named Bushaho and Bikingi, are named for their home ranges and contain some individuals from previously habituated groups. Both groups are led by former Nkuringo group silverbacks, Bahati and Bikingi.
There are 8 babies between these two groups (6 in Bikingi and 2 in Bushaho)! The groups are being habituated for tourism, yes.
Habituation allows veterinarians to visit the groups regularly and closely monitor them for any sign of illness or injury - and intervene to save a life when it is necessary. It also allows the rangers to monitor the group on a daily basis - and for instance, report a gorilla who has become caught in a poacher's snare so that veterinarians can intervene and administer the necessary treatment immediately.
When combined with the estimated 480 gorillas inhabiting the Virunga Volcanoes to the south (the only other location where mountain gorillas exist) , the world’s population of mountain gorilla now stands at 880. The mountain gorillas of Bwindi and the Virungas are the only gorilla populations known to be increasing; all other populations are thought to be in decline due to hunting and habitat loss.
The rise in mountain gorilla populations also indicates the success of a continued collaboration between the Uganda Wildlife Authority with the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Rwanda Development Board (RDB); the Virunga Mountains lie on the borders of three countries, requiring the participation of agencies from Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda for effective monitoring and enforcement. Bwindi, however, is located in Uganda, but in the spirit of regional collaboration, the ICCN and RDB sent support teams for the 2011 Bwindi census effort.
Although far fewer in number than their western relatives, mountain gorillas have had a profound effect on both the public and the naturalists who have encountered them. While collecting specimens in Africa for the American Museum of Natural History in the early 20th Century, U.S. explorer Carl Akeley became concerned about the future of the mountain gorilla, helping to establish Africa’s first national park—now Virunga National Park—in 1925 to protect the gorillas.