Forest Of The Apes
There are now just over 1000 Mountain Gorillas alive in the world today. This project shows the daily hard work of dedicated organizations such as Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) and the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA), who work in the Bwindi impenetrable National Park, Uganda. Bwindi is in South Western Uganda is one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems alive on the planet today. The forest is one of the oldest in Africa and parts of this virgin rainforest date back to over 25,000 years. The forest is a carpet of dense vegetation which covers steep valley walls and mountain tops, everywhere you look from the forest floor to the top of the towering tree canopy is green luscious foliage (the forest really earns its name ‘The Impenetrable Forest’). Clouds pour through the valleys bringing heavy rumbling rainstorms which can sometimes pass as quickly as they arrived. Between all the green is a vast network of rivers and streams which, like this image to the right, thunder down from the high plateaus to the valleys below. Within this exceptionally unique habitat is one extremely iconic species that has called these mountains home for over 10,000 years, the ‘Mountain Gorilla’ (Gorilla Beringei Beringei). This species is one of the most endangered in the world with around 1,000 individuals and has faced many threats over the last 100 years in particular. Both the forest and the apes thrive off each other and have a special relationship few animals share with their habitat. Without the protection of the forest the gorillas would not survive and without the gorillas the forest would be encroached, they make each other strong.
The recent history of the Mountain Gorilla is one of the great conservation success stories. In the 1980s Bwindi was under siege from loggers, hunters, miners, and farmers and the Gorillas were suffering. In 1991 that changed when the park was re-branded ‘Bwindi Impenetrable National Park’. This started the dedicated conservation era which has been very effective in recent years, so much so, the Mountain Gorilla is the only sub-species of Gorilla which is increasing in population. This led to an improvement of their population status from critically endangered to endangered.
For this conservation to be effective the organizations couldn’t just focus on the Gorillas. They had to help the people surrounding the park which includes techniques such as educating local people about the importance of protecting the national park. As well as creating alternative livelihoods such as coffee farming which reduces the need for people to go to the forest for resources decreasing human-gorilla contact.
Some of the Gorilla focused conservation techniques are Gorilla health monitoring where UWA trackers observe habituated groups of gorillas daily to make sure the gorilla's health does not deteriorate. CTPH collect gorilla fecal samples to test for dangerous parasites that could have been transferred from humans. There are also Human Gorilla Conflict teams (HuGo) which herd the gorillas back into the park when they leave to eat farmers' crops, this reduces human-gorilla contact which reduces the risk of disease and physical harm to the Gorillas.
These techniques have worked so well these conservation organizations want to implement it on other gorilla subspecies habitats to try and turn the tide on their population decrease.