Uganda records success with Gorillas

Uganda's Mountain Gorillas

A permit to track gorillas in Uganda can cost around $500 and the World Wildlife Fund estimates that each gorilla brings in up to $1 million in revenue each year for the East African country.

The population of Uganda's mountain gorillas has grown to 400, from 302 in 2006, according to a census conducted last year. This brings the total number of mountain gorillas in Africa to 880, giving hope to conservationists trying to save the critically endangered species.

"The increase in the population of mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is testimony to the sound natural resource management policies that are being implemented in the protected areas," Uganda's Ministry of Tourism said in a statement.

"This result confirms beyond reasonable doubt that Uganda's conservation efforts are paying off." Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a network of jungle forests deep in the country's southwestern frontier, is recognized by UNESCO as a heritage site of world value.

The census shows a stunning recovery for a species that once faced a real threat of extinction. Mountain gorillas in the wild still face threats ranging from habitat loss to poaching, especially in Congo, where lawlessness in the country's vast eastern territory has allowed illegal hunters to prosper. Mountain gorillas are hunted for their meat in Congo, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

The conservation group Gorilla Doctors said the population growth was partly due to "extreme conservation" methods such as daily ranger monitoring in the forest.

Ugandan wildlife officials have been able to build successful partnerships with local communities in part by pouring some of the revenue into local projects, converting previously hostile groups into friendly advocates for the gorillas' survival.

"The mountain gorilla is the only non-human great ape that is actually growing in number," said Mike Cran-field of Gorilla Doctors. "The growth of the mountain gorilla population can be attributed to the intensive conservation and collaboration between multiple conservation groups and government authorities."