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Gorillas in your midst... A NEW CENSUS REVEALS THE POPULATION OF MOUNTAIN GORILLAS IS INCREASING. SARAH MARSHALL RECOMMENDS SOME OF THE BEST PLACES TO SEE THEM.

Byline: Marshall Sarah

IN AN era of mass extinctions, the future of wildlife on our planet can seen glum. But there are some rays of hope, proving that conservation efforts really can make a difference.

On June 1, results of a new mountain gorilla census were revealed, showing numbers of the endangered species are on the rise. In a study of the transboundary Virunga Massif, an area covering parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda, 604 individuals were counted - an increase from 480 in 2010.

Combined with the 400 mountain gorillas recorded in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in 2011, it brings the total estimated population to 1,004. Another census was launched in this area in March, meaning the world's total population could come in even greater before the year is out.

Tracking gorillas, or any great ape, is an awe-inspiring experience. If you want to enjoy close encounters with our primate relatives, try these trips...

1 VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, RWANDA MOUNTAIN gorillas can be found throughout the Virunga Massif, a chain of volcanoes spread between Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC.

According to the last census, there are 880 of the endangered animals remaining, and Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park is one of the best places to track them. Treks range from short jaunts to several sweaty, uphill hours, depending on where your allocated habituated gorilla family is (there are 10 different groups), although everyone has a strict one hour with the animals.

Rwanda's conservation efforts are commendable, but last year's doubling of permit prices (now $1,500 US each) makes this a luxury experience.

| How to do it: Volcanoes Safaris (volcanoessafaris.com) operate one of the most beautiful lodges in the national park and offer a four-day Virunga Safari from $5,584 US, including a gorilla trek and golden monkey trek. Flights extra.

2 BWINDI, UGANDA A CHEAPER alternative is neighbouring Uganda, where gorilla permits are $600 US. The same one-hour rule applies, although treks through the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest can be tougher. There are 11 families suitable for tourists to visit, and a new gorilla habituation programme allows visitors to spend a full day following the animals ($1,500 US). | How to do it: As part of their Jane Goodall Collection of holidays endorsed by the world renowned primatologist, G Adventures (gadventures.co.uk) offer a nine-day Uganda and Gorilla Overland escorted group tour from PS1,555pp, including a gorilla trek in Bwindi. Flights extra. Various dates.

3 SABAH, BORNEO IN 2016, orangutans were upgraded to critically endangered on the ICUN Red List, which means, sadly, they're one step away from extinction in the wild. The primates can be found across Borneo, an island divided between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.

Sightings are guaranteed at the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah, where the animals gather twice daily at an open-air feeding platform. A great place for wild encounters is the Danum Valley or the Kinabatangan River, where tourists can explore by boat, often sighting pygmy elephants. | How to do it: Exodus Travels (exodus.co.uk) offer a 13-day Borneo Wildlife Adventure escorted tour from PS2,349pp including flights. Various dates.

4 KIBALE, UGANDA WE SHARE 98.5% of genes with chimps, and their dexterity for mountain gorilla in Rwanda using tools is remarkably human. Several groups in Uganda have been habituated, with the highest concentration in Kibale National Park, but viewing these meat-eaters is much more challenging than tracking gorillas.

Permits cost from $100-150 US, depending on the season, and a full day chimp habituation experience (where you get to shadow researchers for a day) costs $220 US. | How to do it: Natural World Safaris (naturalworldsafaris.com) offer a 11-day small escorted group Uganda tour combining a gorilla trek and chimp trek for PS5,995pp, excluding park fees and international flights. Departs Sept.

5 DRC (DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO) THE peace-loving cousins of chimps and our closest relatives, bonobos are remarkable creatures. Seeing these primates is an expensive and complicated exercise, as one of the only places where wild bonobos can be found is the Lomako Forest Reserve in the DRC, where few operators go. A recent outbreak of Ebola means many have temporarily ceased visiting.

Bonobos can also be seen at the Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary in Kinshasa, close to safer, neighbouring Republic of Congo, which is more accessible - although FCO advisories still apply.

CAPTION(S):

An orangutan in Borneo

A mountain gorilla in Rwanda

Above, bonobos in the DRC. Below, Chimps grooming in Kibale, Uganda. Left, a mountain gorilla in Uganda
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Publication:Manchester Evening News (Manchester, United Kingdom)
Geographic Code:9INDO
Date:Jun 25, 2018
Words:760
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