Fortunately, over the last several years, the groups have been able to spread out, suggesting this period of group instability, high mortality and slowed reproduction may be coming to an end.
“We are already beginning to see infant mortality as well as female transfer rates return to what was more typical in the 1980s and 1990s,” says Morrison.
However, the results underscore the challenges facing the population as it continues to grow within a limited habitat.
“The mountain gorillas of Rwanda are one of the longest-studied animals on the planet, and this research really emphasizes the value of such an investment to understanding big-picture questions about the population,” says Tara Stoinski, Ph.D., the Fossey Fund’s president and CEO/chief scientific officer and an author on the paper.
“We often think of extrinsic conservation threats, such as climate change, poaching or habitat loss, but these data highlight some of the intrinsic challenges species may face as habitat shrinks. This is critical information that can help inform longer-term conservation strategies to ensure the continued growth of the population.”
Morrison RE, Hirwa JP, Ndagijimana F, Vecellio V, Eckardt W, Stoinski TS (2022). Cascading effects of social dynamics on the reproduction, survival, and population growth of mountain gorilla. Journal of Animal Conservation https://doi.org/10.1111/acv.12830