Author Archives: maina

Mountain Gorillas To Get Counted in Vital Census

We have learnt that the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) will support a Mountain Gorilla census in March and April this year through the International Gorilla Conservation Project (a coalition of AWF, WWF and FFI). The Mountain Gorilla Vet Project (Gorilla Doctors) is also one of the  partners in the census. Read the announcement that is posted on the AWF Website.

KIGALI, RWANDA–The critically endangered mountain gorilla’s current status is to be revealed through a census to determine its population size in the Virunga Volcanoes area that straddles the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda in Eastern and Central Africa. The Virunga Volcanoes is one of only two locations where mountain gorillas live, whose total numbers are currently estimated at 680 individuals. Though the area is now relatively calm, recent conflict in the Mikeno sector of Virunga National Park in the DRC has left the gorillas there vulnerable. The last Virunga Volcanoes census in 2003 resulted in an estimate of 380 individuals, with the remaining individuals living in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park Uganda. The Wildlife and National Park Authorities of Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC will collaborate on the census, which is planned for March and April 2010.

The census is an opportunity to make an accurate count of the total gorilla population in the Virunga Volcanoes. Fecal samples will also be collected for genetic analysis to confirm the population size and for better understanding the genetic variability and health status of the population. Such monitoring is vitally important in understanding the long-term viability and measuring the effects of the recent history of conflict in the region on such a small population of critically endangered animals. Eugene Rutagarama, Director of census partner the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP), stated, “The Gorilla census is an exercise enabling us to assess the impact of conservation efforts carried out by all gorilla conservation stakeholders. We are hoping that the census will confirm a continuous increase of the mountain gorilla population and guide us on how we can further contribute to the growth of this still endangered population.”

Launching on March 1st, the census will involve 80 team members. Team members, which will be drawn from the staff of the various protected area (National Park) authorities and their partners, will traverse the entire Virunga gorilla habitat range over a period of approximately eight weeks.

The census is being carried out by the Rwanda Development Board/ Tourism and Conservation, the Congolese Wildlife Authority and the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The exercise will be supported by the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) through the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (a coalition of AWF, WWF and FFI). Other supporters include the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Results will be vital in looking at population trends and determining the best collaborative way forward for mountain gorilla conservation.

For more information about the census, contact Elizabeth Miranda at [email protected].

Great Apes Legislation Subject of Congressional Hearing

I was directed to this piece of refreshing news from our good friend Christine C and I believe you’d also be happy to read it.

George Miller’s House Member Office (D-CA-07) posted a Press Release on January 27, 2010 | 1:34 pm (re-posted on GovNe.ws)

Rep. Miller’s Great Apes Legislation subject of Congressional Hearing
Obama Administration strongly supports Miller Bill
Wildlife groups call the bill “critical” to saving great apes from extinction

WASHINGTON, DC – The Obama Administration and several wildlife conservation groups today urged Congress to pass U.S. Rep. George Miller’s (D- Martinez) legislation to reauthorize federal aid to help conserve great ape populations around the world.

Miller introduced the Great Ape Conservation Reauthorization Amendments Act of 2010, H.R. 4416, in early January to reauthorize federal funding for international conservation efforts of gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, bonobos, and other great apes. Miller’s bill was the subject of a hearing today before the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife.

“Great apes are our closest non-human relatives on the planet, but the threats they face from people are all too real,” Miller said. “We have seen the devastation of wild primate populations throughout Africa and Asia. Since the authorization of my great ape bill ten years ago, our relatively small federal investment has been matched by significant local and private funding, boosting efforts to save gorillas and other great apes. We must reauthorize the program to enable these successful programs to flourish.”

“The Great Ape Conservation Act provides an excellent example of how to produce focused and efficient means to support the conservation of species that are ecologically important and aesthetically invaluable to the American public and people around the world,” said Jane Lyder, the Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Department of the Interior in her testimony before the Congressional panel. “The Administration strongly supports H.R. 4416.”

Regarding the Great Ape Conservation Act, Sally Jewell Coxe, the President of the Bonobo Conservation Initiative said in her testimony: “I can’t imagine what we would have done without it or what the prospects would be today for bonobos and the other great apes had it not been for the critical, catalytic, and timely support GACA has provided … Without intensified efforts to protect them, great apes including bonobos may be extinct in the wild in a generation. The Great Ape Conservation Act is critical to prevent this tragedy. ”

Miller authored the original legislation in 2000 to provide federal funding through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for international great ape habitat conservation efforts, primarily in Africa and Asia.

The FWS Great Ape Conservation Fund has provided millions of dollars in federal matching grants to protect rare and threatened primates – including gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, bonobos, and other great apes. In 2009, the FWS awarded funds to 59 projects, many in African and Asian nations. Over $4.2 million was granted by the FWS, leveraging and additional $4.9 million from other organizations.

Miller is a long-time animal rights and conservation advocate and a leader in Congress on education, labor, the economy, and the environment. Miller is also the author of the Protect America’s Wildlife Act (PAW Act), legislation to protect wolves and other wildlife from the illegal and inhumane practice of airborne hunting.

More information about the Great Ape Conservation Fund can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/international/DIC/species/great_apes/great_apes.html

Republic of Congo: Up To Two Gorillas Killed for Bushmeat Trade Each Week

In the Kouilou region of the Republic of Congo, up to two gorillas are being killed each week, an undercover investigation by the conservation group Endangered Species International has revealed, exposing the scale of gorilla poaching in the country. This story was given world audience by the BBC Earth News portal. It is reproduced here below.

Scale of gorilla poaching exposed

By Jody Bourton
Earth News reporter

An undercover investigation has found that up to two gorillas are killed and sold as bushmeat each week in Kouilou, a region of the Republic of Congo.

The apes’ body parts are then taken downriver and passed on to traders who sell them in big-city markets.

Conducted by the conservation group Endangered Species International, the investigation helps expose the extent of gorilla poaching in the country.

It fears hundreds more gorillas may be taken each year outside the region.

The group began its investigation by going undercover, talking to sellers and traders at food markets in Pointe Noire, the second largest city in the Republic of Congo.

Over the course of a year, investigators visited the markets twice a month, recording the amount of bushmeat for sale.

“Gorilla meat is sold pre-cut and smoked for about $6 per ‘hand-sized’ piece. Actual gorilla hands are also available,” says Mr Pierre Fidenci, president of Endangered Species International (ESI).

“Over time we got the confidence of the sellers and traders. They gave us the origin of the gorilla meat and it all comes from a single region.”

The team then undertook an expedition to travel to the source of this meat, a forested area called Kouilou, which lies along the Kouilou River around 100 to 130km from Pointe Noire.

Using the same boats that ferry the gorilla meat downriver to the city, the investigators travelled upstream, taking photographs and recording interviews with villagers which revealed the extent of the gorilla poaching.

The investigators also undertook field surveys to ascertain the size of the population of wild western lowland gorillas living in the region.

“According to interviews and field surveys, we think we may have about 200 gorillas left in the area,” says Mr Fidenci.

“But we estimate that 4% of the population is being killed each month, or 50% in a year. It is a lot.”

The poachers particularly target adult gorillas of reproductive age which carry the most meat.

With such heavy hunting, the researchers believe gorillas could disappear from the region within a decade.

“During our mission we observed killing of gorillas in the wild. In less than one week and a half in one particular area we had two adult gorillas killed for their meat,” Mr Fidenci says.

All the meat appears to be consumed in Pointe Noire rather than being exported.

“The gorilla meat goes to the nearest, biggest and most profitable place,” says Mr Fidenci.

“Our study has disclosed the horrific scale of the endangered species market in the Republic of Congo, especially endangered gorillas sold as meat.”

Overall, ESI estimates that at least 300 gorillas are sold to markets each year in the country.

Crosshead

Western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) are one of two subspecies of Western gorilla, the other being the Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli).

Western lowland gorillas are considered to be critically endangered, as their population has fallen by more than 80% in three generations.

Between 100,000 and 125,000 western lowland gorillas are thought to survive across their entire geographic range which spans several countries.

But the dense and remote forest habitat in which they live often makes it difficult to reliably estimate the population size.

Mr Fidenci hopes to go back to Kouilou to find out more about the remaining gorillas living there and to find a way to conserve them.

“We intend to stop the killing in the area by providing alternative income to locals and working with hunters not against them. We hope to conduct conservation awareness with educational programs with other NGOs and to create a gorilla nature reserve.”

“We need to tackle the problem where it starts, right there where people and gorillas live.”

Currently, little is done in the country to prevent the poaching of bushmeat, Mr Fidenci says.

“Enforcement does not exist. Even though there are existing laws which protect endangered wildlife against such activities.”