One of wildlife's greatest success stories? The recovery of the mountain gorilla population in Central Africa. From a low of 254 individuals in 1981 to an estimated 880 in the latest population survey, conducted in 2012, mountain gorilla numbers have rebounded in a major way. But the species' plight is inexorably tied to that of the people who once lived in the same forests: the Batwa.
Two decades ago, the Ugandan government established two national parks for the gorillas in Batwa homelands, forcing people from their forest home. Ever since, the Batwa have lived in impromptu villages on the parks' borders, eking out a meager living and enduring higher poverty, death, and infant mortality rates than the rest of Uganda. The great apes have returned from the brink of extinction, thanks to intense efforts by conservation groups and government wildlife authorities, but the indigenous who were removed from their ancestral lands have become “conservation refugees.”
In the spring, I traveled to Uganda to report for TakePart on the gorillas-humans trade-off. What I learned was that it doesn't need to be either-or, and the Batwa themselves are now fighting to make their government recognize as much. Read the full story of the gorilla recovery at the expense of people, and click on the image above to see more photos.
Reporting for this article was funded by Mongabay.org’s Special Reporting Initiatives program.