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Two mountain gorillas born in DR Congo's Virunga park

By AFP
Congo Mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park in 2015.  By PETER MARTELL (AFP/File)
NOV 18, 2021 LISTEN
Mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park in 2015. By PETER MARTELL (AFP/File)

Two new-born mountain gorillas have further boosted the endangered species' baby boom underway in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park, authorities have said.

Conservationists have long sought to protect the world heritage site's mountain gorilla population even as violence and instability plagued the DRC's eastern provinces over 25 years.

A male in the "Wilungula family" and a female from the "Humba family" were born on November 15, the park announced on Twitter Wednesday, bringing the number of gorilla births since January to 16.

The mountain gorilla population has increased fivefold in 40 years in the three countries where they live -- the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda.

According to park records, their estimated population was only 58 in 1981, increasing to 131 in 2000, 201 in 2010 and 286 in 2016.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) revised mountain gorillas' status from "critically endangered" to "endangered" in November 2018.

Park authorities say their conservation success resulted from their so-called "extreme conservation" policy, including "daily close tracking of individual (gorillas) by rangers, trackers and vets".

The nature reserve estimated its mountain gorilla population at 350 in mid-2021.

The conservation achievements come despite several armed groups operating in the area and targeting local populations.

The park said conservation efforts had "a significant financial cost" and the ecological challenges facing mountain gorillas "remain large" in an area with a high population density, poverty and chronic political instability.

The next comprehensive, cross-border mountain gorilla census is due in 2022.

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