The Volcanoes National Park has expanded its boundaries for the Gorilla habitat for the first time in three decades as a direct result of 27.8 hectares of land being gifted to the Rwandan government by the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). The population of Mountain Gorillas has been steadily increasing over the last 20 years. It’s hoped that the additional land will ease the pressure on the park. The next growth census is due out this month and is expected to show further increase on the 3.7% annual rise from 2003 to 2010 where figures rose from 380 to 480.
Mountain Gorillas are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Despite growing numbers, the population is still small enough to warrant the species being listed. Gorillas are currently found in only two areas: the Virunga Massif, which straddles the borders of Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, and in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (Uganda).
Great apes are often found wandering outside the park’s borders. This puts them at a substantial risk from a range of foreign elements such as viruses and diseases transmitted by the surrounding community. Primate’s immune systems are not accustomed to fighting these, therefore they are often deadly. The expansion of the park provides for a larger buffer zone between the gorillas’ core habitat and that of the local human population.
Encounters with these spectacular primates in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park has grown year on year, more than 80% since 2007. The cost of Gorilla permits into the park have risen steadily to £1052 from £526 per person. In 2016 the park brought in an impressive US$16.4 million from park entry fees alone. This income helps to protect the Gorillas and support the park and surrounding community.