A census of mountain gorillas due in March will likely show numbers have risen this decade, experts said during a ceremony to mark Rwanda’s expansion of its Volcano National Park.
The last global survey in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda in 2010 found just 480 individuals of the critically endangered sub-species.
Eugene Mutangana, the head of conservation at the Rwandan Development Board (RDB), said the increase in the number of mountain gorillas will improve the habitat of the endangered spices and alsothe lives of Rwandans.
Mountain gorillas are under threat from poaching, war and habitat loss.
Rwanda is keen to encourage tourists to see them, but tour operators and hoteliers say a government decision to double the price of trekking permits from $750 to $1,500 last year slashed visitor numbers.
Philip Mason of Sabyinyo Silverback lodge, a high-end hotel in the town of Musanze, at the foot of volcanoes where gorillas live, said business for top-end facilities was good.
But budget facilities and tour operators have been harder hit.
Mountain gorillas, a subspecies of the eastern gorilla, have longer hair, jaws and teeth than most other species. Adult males grow a patch of grey hair on their back and hips, giving them the ‘silverback’ moniker.
One such is Gihishamwotsi, a dominant male in the Sabyinyo family, a popular group viewed by trekkers in Rwanda’s national park.