National Geographic : 2010 Nov
PHOTO: MATTIAS KLUM. NGM MAPS CONSERVATION Tracking Gorillas When counting mountain gorillas, try to avoid the animals themselves. That's the tack primatologist Martha Robbins and 71 others took while conducting their latest census of the endangered species. "We don't want to encounter unhabituated gorillas," she explains, "because it is stressful for them." Rather than seeking out individuals, the team followed clues such as dung, nests, and trails to estimate gorilla numbers in the volcanic Virunga Mountains of equatorial Africa---one of only two places where the great apes live. At last count, in 2006, some 680 were estimated to remain in that area and Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The 2010 Virunga census, followed by a Bwindi survey next year, will tell how the gorillas are faring now, after years of poaching, deforestation, and political unrest. Also expected, thanks to fecal-sample analysis: fresh insights into the elusive creatures' genetic diversity and overall health. ---Catherine Barker In Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park, a young silverback sits in solitude. Lake Kivu VOLCANOES N.P. MGAHINGA GORILLA N.P. VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK BWINDI IMPENETRABLE N.P. DEM. REP. OF THE CONGO RWANDA UGANDA 0mi 20 0km 20 AREA ENLARGED AFRICA The Virunga range is home to one of just two mountain gorilla populations that remain today.