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Robbins M.M.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology | Gray M.,The International Gorilla Conservation Programme | Fawcett K.A.,Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International | Nutter F.B.,University of California at Davis | And 9 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2011

As wildlife populations are declining, conservationists are under increasing pressure to measure the effectiveness of different management strategies. Conventional conservation measures such as law enforcement and community development projects are typically designed to minimize negative human influences upon a species and its ecosystem. In contrast, we define "extreme" conservation as efforts targeted to deliberately increase positive human influences, including veterinary care and close monitoring of individual animals. Here we compare the impact of both conservation approaches upon the population growth rate of the critically endangered Virunga mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), which increased by 50% since their nadir in 1981, from approximately 250 to nearly 400 gorillas. Using demographic data from 1967-2008, we show an annual decline of 0.7%±0.059% for unhabituated gorillas that received intensive levels of conventional conservation approaches, versus an increase 4.1%±0.088% for habituated gorillas that also received extreme conservation measures. Each group of habituated gorillas is now continuously guarded by a separate team of field staff during daylight hours and receives veterinary treatment for snares, respiratory disease, and other life-threatening conditions. These results suggest that conventional conservation efforts prevented a severe decline of the overall population, but additional extreme measures were needed to achieve positive growth. Demographic stochasticity and socioecological factors had minimal impact on variability in the growth rates. Veterinary interventions could account for up to 40% of the difference in growth rates between habituated versus unhabituated gorillas, with the remaining difference likely arising from greater protection against poachers. Thus, by increasing protection and facilitating veterinary treatment, the daily monitoring of each habituated group contributed to most of the difference in growth rates. Our results argue for wider consideration of extreme measures and offer a startling view of the enormous resources that may be needed to conserve some endangered species. © 2011 Robbins et al.

Gray M.,The International Gorilla Conservation Programme | McNeilage A.,Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation | McNeilage A.,Wildlife Conservation Society | Fawcett K.,Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International | And 4 more authors.
African Journal of Ecology | Year: 2010

The mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) of the Virunga Volcanoes Range of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are one of the most endangered ape populations in the world. Following a dramatic decline during the 1960s, and relative stability in the 1970s, the population steadily increased during the 1980s. Due to political instability and war, a complete census had not been conducted since 1989. Here we compare the results of a complete census using the 'sweep method' conducted in 2003 with those from a monitoring program, to estimate the size and distribution of the gorilla population. A total of 360 gorillas were counted from census measurements and known habituated groups. Based on quantitative assessments of the census accuracy, we calculated that an additional 20 gorillas were not counted, leading to an estimated population of 380 individuals, and a 1.15% annual growth rate since 1989. The Ranger Based Monitoring programme yielded similar results. The encouraging results must be viewed with caution, however, because the growth was concentrated almost entirely in one section of the Virungas. Additionally, the distribution of gorilla groups was negatively correlated with the frequency of human disturbances, which highlights the need to continue strengthening conservation efforts. © 2009 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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