Mountain gorillas are currently the only nonhuman great ape whose population is not declining. Thanks to successful conservation interventions, the species’ population has increased from 620 in 1989 to more than 1,000 today, enabling the International Union for Conservation of Nature to change the species’ conservation status from critically endangered to endangered. However, with mountain gorilla habitat confined to a few islands of protected area, a growing body of research shows that rising population numbers have come at a price. Previous research showed that as their numbers increased and mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) formed new groups within a fixed habitat, intergroup clashes became more frequent. That, in turn, correlated with a sharp increase in infanticide, higher mortality rates for adult males and a slowdown in population growth. Now, a new study points to another factor dragging down population growth: When intergroup contact increases, so do transfers of females between groups, leading to delayed reproduction. The study also emphasizes that all of these factors — higher encounter rates, more infant and male deaths, more female transfers — cascade. “All of this in combination means that the group fissions lead to higher mortality and slower reproduction resulting in a considerable slow in population growth,” Robin Morrison, postdoctoral researcher at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and co-author of the study, told Mongabay by email. Mother and baby mountain gorilla, part of the Sabyinyo group in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Increased infanticide as gorilla group density increases is a significant factor in slowing the…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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