KAMPALA — At a time when difficult world events like the COVID-19 pandemic don’t give us a lot to smile about, the news that Uganda is experiencing a baby boom in its mountain gorilla population is certainly a cause for joy.
According to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), while the country typically records one or two births a year, seven baby gorillas have been born so far in 2020, five of whom arrived at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The newest arrival announced on 7 September was born to a 16-year-old female called Ndinkahe from the Mucunguzi gorilla family at Bwindi, increasing the membership of the family to 12. Two days earlier, UWA announced that Nshuti from the Nyakagezi family at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park had given birth to a baby, bringing her family’s number to to nine members.
The day before that, UWA confirmed the happy news that Ruterana from the Rushegura gorilla family at Bwindi welcomed another baby, increasing the family membership to 18. This newborn is Ruterana’s third baby, but sadly her first infant died at just two weeks old from pneumonia in 2012. The most senior female from the same family, Kibande, welcomed another newborn at the end of August, and now has five offspring. The status of mountain gorillas was changed from critically endangered to endangered in 2018 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, thanks to an increase in their numbers.
According to executive director of UWA, Sam Mwandha, the birth of new mountain gorillas is testimony to Uganda’s successful conservation efforts, as it has implemented anti-poaching patrols, a round-the-clock veterinary team and 24/7 monitoring of the gorillas. As a measure of seriously the issue is taken, a man was jailed for 11 years in July for killing one of Bwindi’s silverback gorillas, Rafiki. “With enhanced integrity of protected areas, there has been a general increase in wildlife populations in Uganda,” says Mwandha.