Gorillas Are Making a Comeback, Maybe: Population Of Endangered Animals Has Increased 25 Percent

Gorillas are making a comeback! Though there’s still a long way to go towards the conservation of the critically-endangered species, The Hill reports, the recent uptick in the number of gorillas in the wild is making conservationists rejoice.

Wildlife researchers in central Africa conducted a recent census of the wild apes and came up with a total tally of 1,004. That’s significant for two reasons: first, it’s the first time the number of wild gorillas has exceeded 1,000 in decades. Second, that’s a 25 percent increase in their numbers since 2010.

All of the known wild mountain gorillas live in one of two places: either in Virunga National Park, a tropical rainforest located in parts of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda; or Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. 604 of the animals were found in Virunga, and the remaining 400 were found in Bwindi, for a total of 1,004.

By comparison, according to Reuters, the 2010 count found a mere 786 of the animals living in the wild.

Still, there’s an extraordinarily long way to go towards getting the gorilla population off the critically-endangered list and back to sustainable levels. And the threats to the animals are not going away.

Perhaps the biggest threat to our primate cousins is poaching: according to the World Wildlife Fund, the animals often fall victim to the traps and snares set for other animals that are being hunted, legally, for food. Similarly, the gorillas themselves are hunted, for food, or as pets, or for trophies, or because their body parts are used as medicine or “magical charms.”

And though the hunting of gorillas is illegal, weak enforcement and corrupt judicial apparatus don’t always make a dent in deterring their hunting.

Similarly, deforestation, farming, and oil drilling threaten the animals.

Still, the fact that the animals’ numbers are climbing is cause for celebration, according to Mike Cranfield, from the charity organization Gorilla Doctors.

“These numbers are truly remarkable, far exceeding our expectations, and are the result of a collaborative, three-country effort with governments and partners all playing an important role.”

Meanwhile, gorillas have found a new advocate in TV’s Ellen Degeneres and her wife, Portia de Rossi. De Rossi recently gifted Ellen with a wildlife conservation center in her name, and the pair has been in Rwanda these past few days, using social media to stress the importance of the animals’ conservation.

It may be generations before the gorilla population is back to sustainable levels, however, due to their low reproductive rates. And that’s if all of the threats to the animals can be appropriately managed.