The Mountain Gorilla population is alarmingly small and dwindling along with their remaining habitat. To put their population in perspective - there is only one Mountain Gorilla for every ten million people on earth. Gorillas are the largest of the great apes. Genetically, humans and gorillas are very closely related - we share 97% of the same genes! The order Primates includes humans, gorillas, chimps, orangutans, monkeys, lemurs, and bushbabies. Apes differ from monkeys in being larger, having bigger brains and no tails.
Efforts to reverse the decline in the number of gorillas date back to 1925, when Albert National Park was created by the Belgian government to help preserve their habitat. But in the 1960's several factors severely devastated the population - civil unrest, poaching, farming that devastated the forest, and colonial agricultural schemes.
The work done by George Schaller and later by Dian Fossey to educate the world on the importance of maintaining the gorilla's habitat has come a long way to help this endangered species. One exciting current project is the Mountain Gorilla Geomatics Project, which uses state-of-the-art technologies in support of on-going research activities to preserve the Mountain Gorillas in the Virunga mountains, one of the least mapped and more inaccessible areas in the world. The Wildlife Conservation Society of New York helped to establish the first conservation education program for Rwandans, where poaching was still a problem. Currently, the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, CARE, and several other international organizations are working to preserve the Gorilla's habitat. Before these public awareness programs, half the local farmers wanted to convert the forest to farmland - now most realize that conservation is the best strategy for the survival of this great national resource for research and tourism. Mountain Gorilla tracking is a huge attraction in East Africa - a unique experience that leads you into the gorilla's world to meet them on their own terms. The combination of international assistance, a renewed local sensitivity to the problem, the establishment of preserves, and strictly enforced rules and guidelines has raised hopes for their future.
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