The mountain gorilla is one resilient-ass animal. War, hunting, habitat loss, and disease nearly wiped out the subspecies of the eastern gorilla. Efforts to save it, however, seem to be working: It’s gone from critically endangered to endangered with more than a thousand individuals, according to an update to the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List announced Wednesday.
That’s the highest number ever recorded for the subspecies, a conclusion the IUCN came to after surveying the gorilla’s habitat. The last assessment, in 2008, recorded about 680 gorillas. Since then, conservationists in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Uganda have been working hard on anti-poaching efforts, as well as interventions like removing snares, per the IUCN.
However, this doesn’t mean that the greater eastern gorilla species is faring all that well. It remains critically endangered. Civil war and mining in the DRC have ravished the population of Grauer’s gorilla, the other eastern gorilla subspecies. There are still a lot more Grauer’s gorillas than mountain gorillas; the former subspecies’ numbers are believed to hover around 4,000, but conservationists can’t properly survey their habitat due to regional violence.
Still, it’s another glimmer of hope for gorillas. A study earlier this year found that the western lowland gorilla population, believed to be around 250,000, was closer to 360,000. Of course, this is a different gorilla species that lives in a different part of the African continent, but the western lowland gorilla has dealt with similar threats around poaching and disease.
Ultimately, people are what’ll determine these animals’ fate. This new assessment proves that conservation efforts are working, but the work is far from over. With the human population growing and encroaching on its habitat, the mountain gorilla’s problems may only be beginning.