Endangered Species Handbook

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Vanishing Species

Human Tragedy and the Looting of Virunga's Treasures: Page 4

     In neighboring Uganda, the small Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, a 34-square-kilometer reserve, protects 40 more Mountain Gorillas.  Some 25 kilometers north is a beautiful cloud forest, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, covering 330 square kilometers, in an area of high biological diversity (Butynski and Kalina 1993).  This forest has the greatest number of trees of any in East Africa and so many endemic plants that it has been selected by the IUCN Plants Programme as one of Africa's most important forests (Butynski and Kalina 1993).  Birds, butterflies, amphibians and reptiles found nowhere else inhabit the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.  It also protects a population of 300 Mountain Gorillas who have smaller bodies, longer limbs, hands and feet than those of Zaire:  Their skulls and trunks differ also, and they are somewhat different genetically from other populations (Croke 1995, Drewes 1997).  Scientists are now considering naming these Gorillas a separate subspecies.  Destruction of forest and other habitats outside Uganda's and Rwanda's parks is extensive, making these last natural areas crucial to the survival of the Mountain Gorillas.
 
     Uganda's decades of chaos under President Idi Amin decimated the wildlife of this lovely country bordering Lake Victoria.  Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Park once had magnificent concentrations of elephants, hippos and other large mammals, but by 1997, little remained, having been slaughtered by rebel groups or refugees from neighboring countries (Drewes 1997).  Uganda's Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities conducted an aerial survey of Uganda's remote northern regions to determine whether some wildlife might remain to restock other areas, but they found "absolutely nothing" (Drewes 1997).  Uganda has recently made a commitment to restore its wildlife and has reintroduced many large ungulates, trucked in from Kenya, into its national parks. 


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