A new mountain gorilla census is underway in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda, with conservationists confident numbers will have risen since the last count, back in 2006.
Over the next couple of weeks, a multinational team of rangers, trackers and researchers, led by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, will criss-cross the national park in search of evidence of both groups of mountain gorillas and individuals.
Rather than looking specifically for gorillas, the team will count the nests each gorilla makes for itself each night. They will also look out for faecal matter, samples of which will also be taken to Makerere University to assess whether they have been catching human diseases as a result of encroachment into their protected habitat. GPS markers will be placed at each nest site to avoid counting the same spot twice and all of the data collected will be pooled to give an estimated total population.
Encouragingly, despite the fact that threats such as habitat loss, poaching and ongoing political instability continue to place Uganda's mountain gorillas in danger, conservationists are confident that this latest count will show numbers have risen since 2006, when 320 individuals were found to be living in Bwindi.
It is anticipated that the results of the census will be released in the second half of 2012, with this delay down to the length of time that a proper genetic analysis and verification of the data will take.