Uganda reports two new gorilla babies in Bwindi national park

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Two new baby gorillas have been discovered in a Ugandan national park where a beloved primate named Rafiki was killed in June, a wildlife official announced on Tuesday, saying the infants are part of a baby boom in the protected forest popular with tourists.

“For us it’s a sign of relief. We lost one. We got two. But, of course, losing one is bad enough,” said Bashir Hangi, a spokesman for Uganda Wildlife Authority, talking about the loss of Rafiki.

The babies are believed to have been born in the same week last month to two separate groups of habituated gorillas in the remote Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, according to wildlife authorities.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature classifies the mountain gorilla as an endangered species. Until November 2018, the same group classified mountain gorillas as critically endangered. The population of mountain gorillas has increased to allow for the less severe classification.

Around 1,000 mountain gorillas live in protected areas in Congo, Uganda and Rwanda, serving as a critical source of tourism revenue for those countries. A gorilla tracking permit costs up to USD600 in Uganda, and thousands of tourists pay each year. A similar permit costs upward of USD1,000 in Rwanda.

Those funds are essential to protecting the animals because authorities can use some of them to invest in anti-poaching activities and help local communities.

A fully grown gorilla holding a baby in Bwindi National Park Uganda, on Tuesday. PHOTO: AP