In the spirit of Spring and the giving of new life, we thought we’d take some time to share a few conservation success stories with you that remind us what we're working for, and how powerful we can be when we work for it together.
In the lush and mist-covered forests of Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park resides one such incredible story of conservation and resilience —one that has captivated the world and serves as a beacon of hope for the protection of endangered species everywhere.
It's the story of the mountain gorillas, and their remarkable journey back from the brink of extinction.
the early timeline
a precarious past
In the 1960s, the mountain gorilla population in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was in a dire state.
These gentle giants faced threats from habitat destruction, poaching, and civil unrest in their native habitats.
At their lowest point, it was estimated that there were fewer than 250 individuals left in the wild.
the pioneering work of dian fossey
Cue 1967, and the story of the mountain gorilla's recovery becomes intertwined with the pioneering work of American primatologist Dian Fossey.
Fossey's tireless dedication to studying and protecting these primates brought international attention to their plight. Her work laid the foundation for future conservation efforts in the region.
gorillas in the midst of war
During the 1990s, the mountain gorillas faced another threat: the Rwandan civil war and genocide.
Despite the chaos and danger in the region, over the next 4 years some brave individuals continued their efforts to protect these critically endangered animals.
a turning point: the gorilla naming ceremony
One of the turning points in mountain gorilla conservation was the 2005 establishment of the annual Kwita Izina, or Gorilla Naming Ceremony, in Rwanda.
This event, inspired by the tradition of naming human babies, celebrates the birth of each new gorilla and raises awareness about the importance of gorilla conservation.
“A name professes the aspirations parents have for their children, so we determine our own destiny through the names we give our children. In a way, we are defining our common destiny through Kwita Izina — we are defining where we want to go.” Belise Kariza (Chief Tourism Officer, Rwanda Development Board)
a remarkable recovery
Crucially, conservation efforts shifted to involve local communities living near the gorillas' habitats.
Revenue generated from gorilla tourism was reinvested in local development projects, creating incentives for communities to protect these gentle giants and their habitat.
As a result, the mountain gorilla population in the Virunga Massif region, which spans Rwanda, Uganda, and the DRC, has experienced a remarkable resurgence.
In 2018, a survey reported that there were approximately 604 mountain gorillas in the wild, a nearly doubling of their population in just three decades.
As of 2021, this number has grown to over 1,000.
a lesson in conservation
The recovery of the mountain gorilla population is a testament to what can be achieved through dedicated conservation efforts, community engagement, and international collaboration.
This commitment, persistence, and holistic approach to conservation that involved both local communities and the global community showed us how we can truly help endangered species recover and thrive.
It reminds us that even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, there is always hope for a brighter future for our planet's most magnificent creatures.
As we celebrate the revival of the mountain gorilla population in Rwanda, let us also be inspired to redouble our efforts to protect and preserve the incredible biodiversity of our world.
To get involved, pick some of your favourite initiatives below and get cracking!
After all, the success story of the mountain gorillas reminds us that the future of endangered species ultimately rests in our hands.
Gorilla trekking: There are many public service providers that provide gorilla trekking tours, one of which is Conservation through Public Health. The revenue generated from these tours is fed directly back into conservation efforts as well as the communities surrounding the gorillas' habitats
Donations: There are a multitude of organisations that continue to work tirelessly to maintain and grow Rwanda's mountain gorilla population. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, and the Rwanda Development Board are 3 major roleplayers in the recovery of these magnificent creatures, and any donations go a long way to allowing them to continue making a difference
Adopting a gorilla: Certain organisations like the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund allow you to symbolically adopt a gorilla, assisting with the financial support necessary to maintain and grow these populations
You can also choose to make that difference with us today by clicking here - their future is in our hands.