The Charity’s Mission

Since 1967 The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International has worked to protect endangered gorillas in Africa that are under threat from poaching, diseases and habitat destruction. Various health, education and economic programmes have been established as part of collaborative conservation efforts to stem the rapid and unsustainable rate of gorilla population losses. For 2015-2016 a new census of all mountain gorillas in Africa’s Virunga region will be conducted, led by a team of over 60 staff from the Karisoke Research Center at Volcanoes National Park, and other wildlife authorities.

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Conducts Census of Virunga Mountain Gorillas

Image Credit

Why the Census is Important

2015 signifies the 30th anniversary of American zoologist and charity founder Dr. Dian Fossey’s death. After spending 18 years dedicated to the cause, as documented via the Oscar-winning 1988 film “Gorillas in the Mist” and in her original diaries, the new census continues honouring her legacy as a pioneer in the field. According to Tara Stoinski, Ph.D., President and CEO/Chief Scientific Officer of the Fossey Fund, the census is critical for understanding current gorilla population status and trends, confirming the effectiveness of conservation efforts, and contributing to further planning initiatives. The last 2010 census of the region showed a total of 480 mountain gorillas in the Virungas, up from 380 counted in the 2003 census.

How the Census is Conducted

The census consists of two parts: The first “sweep” of the forest area takes approximately 11 weeks, involving the observation of night nests and biometric studies to determine the age, sex and unique identity of individual gorillas using DNA extraction. The second “sweep” takes place in early 2016, and involves data analysis and the release of preliminary results and a final report. Updates are available via the official charity website and YouTube video collection.

Glimpses of the Gorillas

As the World Wildlife Fund reports, there are only 880 individual mountain gorillas alive across the globe today. Therefore, many travel companies including favour schemes like Rwanda Gorilla Trekking as they are largely non-disruptive compared to older forms of animal sightseeing.

Ecotourism Lifeline

According to local news, 10 per cent ($1m per annum) of gorilla ecotourism revenue goes towards community projects near Volcanoes National Park, thereby reinforcing its practical and positive socio-economic impacts in helping to create more politically stable, safe and secure areas for local people to inhabit.