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Tourism: Rwanda, Uganda, DRC kick off Gorilla Census

Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have kicked off mountain gorillas’ census to ascertain the exact number of gorilla population in those countries.

Belise Kariza (C), Chief Tourism officer at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).

The three countries share gorilla habitat in the Virunga massif which comprises of a series of volcanic mountains that stretch from south-western Uganda, north-western Rwanda and eastern DRC covering Mgahinga gorilla park, volcanoes national park and Virunga national park in Uganda, Rwanda and DRC respectively.

Mountain gorillas are endangered primate species that live in the Virunga massif and are among major cash cows of the three country’s tourism sector.

The census exercise involves using the Global Positioning System (GPS) for the gorilla by trackers and park rangers from Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo.

During the exercise enumerators follows a gorilla trail through Rwanda’s thick towering bamboos of the sanctuary until they located the nest site, from where they carry out a scientific recording, according to Belise Kariza, Chief Tourism officer at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).

She told reporters on Saturday that the activity strengthens the accuracy of the previous census exercises.

Virunga massif found in north-western Rwanda .

"In gorillas’ census, one does not encounter gorillas; all they look for is a nest where gorillas slept the previous night. Enumerators take records of gorilla solid wastes and keep them for genetical examination, from which they determine the age and lineage of the identified specie," Kariza explained.

According to conservation experts, gorillas never return to the nests where they slept in the previous night which makes it easy for trackers to have conclusive records.

According to statistics from the Greater Virunga Trans boundary Collaboration (GVTC) - a collaborative management of the Virunga Massif, currently, the number of gorillas in the Virunga Massif is estimated at 800.

Every five years, a census of gorillas is carried out in the Virunga Massif.

For the past five decades, gorillas in the Virunga massif have grown from 274 in 1972 to 480 as of last census conducted in 2010.

In 2005, Rwanda introduced Kwita-Izina (gorilla naming) ceremony that has become an annual international event.

Rwanda will this year in September name 19 baby gorillas that were born late 2015 and this year.

Dr. Georges Muamba Tshibasu, executive Secretary, GVTC, said that normal reproduction rate of the gorillas has significantly increased in the recent past, due to the increased collaboration and security in the three countries covering the Virunga Massif.

"The census results will be released in 2017, and this will enable our collaboration to enhance gorilla conservation efforts," said Muamba.

By Robert Muriisa.

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