Despite decades of ongoing habitat loss, poaching and even violent attacks on those paid to protect them, mountain gorilla numbers are finally increasing.
The news coming out of East Africa’s Virunga Mountains these days would have made the late (and legendary) conservationist Dian Fossey very happy. According to the most recent census, the mountain gorillas introduced to the world in Gorillas in the Mist , Fossey’s book and the film about her work, have grown their ranks from 480 animals in 2010 to 604 as of June 2016. Add another couple hundred apes living in scattered habitats to the south, and their population as a whole totals more than 1,000. Believe it or not, this makes the mountain gorilla subspecies the only great apes known to be increasing in number. At first glance, 1,000 gorillas might not seem like a big deal. The International Union for Conservation of Nature still classifies the subspecies as critically endangered . Poaching and habitat destruction still threaten these giant primates with expressive faces and, as Fossey found, close-knit families. But to truly appreciate their population today, you have to go back more than half a century. Mountain gorilla numbers were in veritable free fall during the 1960s, when Fossey began to study them closely. While she was working tirelessly to habituate the apes to her presence, […]