Uganda’s mountain gorilla births soar due to coronavirus pandemic and better protection

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Bwindi mountain gorillas

Uganda’s mountain gorilla population is doing well because during the peace and quiet brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down tourism, and because of better protection there has been a baby boom in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park this year.

Bwindi mountain gorillas

Bwindi mountain gorillas. Photo: Africa Treasures.

Seven infants had been born there which is more than twice the normal number. Five arrived in the past six weeks and three were born to a single family. They say that the peace and quiet has definitely helped.

The park has had no visitors since March when Uganda closed its borders to tourists. Wildlife has had time to do its thing, the apes to do their feeding and their procreation without interference or distractions from prying humans.

Bwindi is part of two isolated protected forest areas which span Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic Of The Congo. The gestation time for the mountain gorilla is 36 weeks and mothers need peace and quiet. The births have allowed the experts to reclassify their status in terms of survivability from critically endangered to endangered.

Better protection, has included increased monitoring and anti-poaching measures together with support to those communities living near the gorillas. The funding is from tourism. The price for a single tourist to buy a permit to spend an hour observing the gorillas is $600 and 40,000 of them are issued annually as I understand it.

The lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in the loss of 500,000 jobs linked to tourism. A negative is that there is rising hunger in Uganda which has resulted in increased hunting of bushmeat through incursions into parks and the area around Bwindi is heavily populated.

Recently there was the story of Rafiki, a highly regarded and well known alpha male who was killed with a spear by a poacher. The poacher was jailed for 11 years after he admitted spearing Rafiki but he claimed that he acted in self defence.

There were fears that Rafiki’s group would break up because he held the group together as the alpha male but fortuitously younger blackback males have formed a coalition to manage the group successfully. They believe that in the future an alpha male leader will emerge but in the meantime all is well and the conservationists are relieved.