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Uganda Conservation Efforts Payoff with Mountain Gorilla Baby Boom!

Uganda Conservation Efforts Payoff with Mountain Gorilla Baby Boom!
For the third time in as many months, a new baby mountain gorilla has been born in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park! On November 11th 2016, Businza (an adult female in the Rushegura mountain gorilla family) gave birth to a new baby, her second in two years. She gave birth in the morning and was seen by a Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) tracker later in the day. UWA monitors all the habituated gorillas daily to ensure they are in good health and safe.

​Over the last 10 years, Uganda has been leading in conservation of the mountain gorilla. We believe that the pristine and safe habitat is the crucial link in the survival of the gorillas as well as their health and well-being. The mountain gorillas are responding to these ideal circumstances by giving birth. At more than 450 individuals, and growing, Bwindi has the largest number of mountain gorillas found anywhere in the world.

-Dr. Andrew Seguya, Executive Director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority

​There are 10 groups of habituated gorillas in Bwindi, which is a small number compared to the larger numbers that live in the wild. There are roughly 880 mountain gorillas remaining on Earth, and nearly half live in the lush forests of Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga National Parks. So, every single birth is a reason for celebration since there are no mountain gorillas surviving in captivity. As a World Heritage Site, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest lies in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Rift Valley. Its mist-covered hillsides are blanketed by one of Uganda's oldest and most biologically diverse rainforests, which dates back over 25,000 years and contains almost 400 species of plants.

Mountain gorillas live in forests high in the mountains, at elevations of 8,000 to 13,000 feet. They have thicker fur, and more of it, compared to other great apes. The fur helps them to survive in a habitat where temperatures often close to freezing. Female mountain gorillas give birth to one infant after a pregnancy of nearly nine months. The baby mountain gorilla, weighing anything from 1.8 kilograms (four pounds), spends the first three to four years moving around mostly on the mother's back. By four years, the infant is fully weaned and ready to eat the main mountain gorilla diet that includes plants, roots, shoots and the occasional red ants that provide protein. The baby gorilla will eventually grow to weigh up to 160 kg (350 lb) for the males, while the females will hit about 90 kg (200 lb). Mature males are distinguished by the silver strip on the back and thus the name Silverback. Adults can live up to 35 years.

Just a few years ago, the survival of the mountain gorillas was very bleak. These great apes have been threatened by habitat loss, poaching and human activity. A number of conservation initiatives have been set up to support the survival of the remaining great apes including joint interstate and national conservation efforts have seen the population grow. Since the 1980's, numbers have risen from 600 to currently over 880. The expectation is that numbers will continue to grow, and this newborn gorilla is just one proof of that. 

Interested in trekking to see these gentle giants in Uganda or Rwanda? Let me know! 

Your friendly Africa safari expert, 

Chris Moriarty

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