Author Archives: paula

UN envoy berates Nkunda for breaking ceasefire

Although the ICCN has been able to return to the Gorilla sector of the Virunga National Park and initiate a census of mountain gorillas, the political situation and humanitarian situation remains serious. Refugees are being moved by the UN Peace keeping force MONUC from Kibati camp to Mugunga camp west of Goma, moving them away from the conflict frontline for their own protection.

On the political front things seem to be deteriorating. The UN Special envoy, president of Nigerial Olegusun Obasanjo met for a second time with Nkunda yesterday but the visit had not provided any “clear answers” on how to move forward, said Bertrand Bisimwa, spokesman for Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defense of the People, or CNDP.

According to Bloomberg website, the former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, who is accompanying Obasanjo said that direct talks were unlikely. In response, the CNDP has reiterated a threat to directly confront the government and go to war if the government doesn’t agree to talks outside the so-called Amani program.  

Nkunda has publicly requested direct talks with the DRC president, Joseph Kabila but Kabila has insisted that any talks are held within the Amani process which Nkunda agreed to in January this year.  Amani, which means “peace” in Swahili, was set up by the government after a January cease-fire deal between the government and more than 20 armed groups, including the CNDP.

During the meeting on Saturday, Obasanjo apparently berated Nkunda for breaking the cease-fire last week when he initiated a new offensive along the border with Uganda which saw over 30,000 refugees cross at Ishasha.  In the last week Nkunda’s rebels captured two border posts and a town last week.

According to this article on Associated press Obasanjo is disappointed with Nkunda’s behaviour but Nkunda continues to insist that the cease-fire does not apply to foreign forces and said he will continue to protect ethnic Tutsis from Hutu fighters who fled to Congo from Rwanda after that country’s 1994 genocide.

Volcano Eruption Update

Lava flows from the erupting Nyamulagira volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo picked up speed on Monday. While this threatens some wildlife in The Virunga National Park, we must assure you readers that it will not affect the mountain gorillas.
Mt Nyamulagira
According to vulcanologists in Congo, the amount of lava flowing from the volcano as almost double what was observed on Saturday, Goma.  The lava trail has now grown to 4.6km long, and is approximately 15 metres wide.

Mt. Nyamulagira (also spelt Nyamulagira) is 3,058m (10,033ft) high and is one of the most active volcanoes in Africa. It has erupted more than 35 times since 1882, the most recent being in 2006.

Volcano erupts but gorillas ok

BBC report today

 Lava from a volcano in a sparsely populated area of the Democratic Republic of Congo is threatening rare chimpanzees, wildlife officials say.

Mount Nyamulagira, 25km (16 miles) from the eastern city of Goma, erupted at dawn on Saturday, sending lava into the surrounding Virunga National Park.

About 40 endangered chimpanzees and other animals live in the area.

But the country’s famous critically endangered mountain gorillas are said to be safe as they live further east.

Nyamulagira volcano eruption congo

Innocent, Director of the southern sector of the Virunga National Park says the chances of the lava reaching people is remote and provides further news on the Virunga blog .

Kabirizi silverback is a dad again

Having met the Kabirizi family twice I feel as if they are my family so you can imagine my joy when I saw that Kabirizi has another child. that means that Miza, the orphaned baby gorilla we wrote about in “Looking for Miza” about has another sibling!

Look at this beauty!

Kabirizi baby gorilla

Thank you Innocent for bringing us this wonderful news. I know that things are still very difficult in eastern DR Congo but the gorillas look quite peaceful thanks to our former CEO Emmanuel de Merode who is now the Virunga National Park warden and his team of dedicated rangers on the ground.

Gorilla social networks

We have just learned that the Uganda Wildlife Authority plans to introduce online gorilla tracking as a new initiative aimed at the global demand for conservation tourism.

Gorilla facebook

For a minimum donation of $1, subscribers will be able track the movements of individual gorillas through a custom-made Web site. Strategically placed cameras in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest will stream video footage of gorillas to audiences worldwide.

The service – scheduled to begin this month – will also allow users to “befriend a gorilla” on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.

“The project aims to bring attention to the plight of gorillas,” said Lillian Nsubuga, a spokeswoman for the Uganda Wildlife Authority, “and any money raised will be put towards conservation efforts.”

For more on this story go here

Silverback Titus has died in Rwanda

Dear Friends

We are so sorry to be the bearers of bad and sad news- Titus, the star from Gorilla in the Mist has died.

 Titus Silverback gorilla rwanda

KIGALI: The world’s most famous mountain gorilla Titus, aka the Gorilla King, has died at the age of 35, the Rwandan national parks office said Tuesday.

‘He was born on August 24, 1974 and has been observed closely by researchers throughout his entire life. Tragically, he succumbed to old age on September 14,’ a statement said.

Rwanda’s oldest silverback was made famous notably by a BBC documentary broadcast in 2008 and called ‘Titus: the Gorilla King.’

YoG Ambassador Ian Redmond, who knew Titus since infancy, said: “The death of any individual who plays such an important role in his community is a sad occasion.  All who knew Titus will mourn his passing in their own way – whether gorilla or human.  For me it is like losing an old friend – he was the first gorilla I saw when beginning my work as Dian Fossey’s research assistant in 1976.   He was a playful two-year-old and I was a newly graduated biologist, so we both had a lot to learn.   But Titus’s death from natural causes at 35 is also a triumph for conservation – how wonderful that we humans have been able to leave him the space to flourish and become the most successful silverback on record, then grow old and die surrounded by his family.   The King is dead, yes, but long live the King – his son Kuryama.”

The highly-endangered mountain gorillas are found only on the slopes of the Virunga mountains on the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Fewer than 700 mountain gorillas are left, according to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.

Both Rwanda and Uganda have turned gorilla tracking into a major eco-tourism industry and a big foreign-currency earner.

Legendary American primatologist Dian Fossey, who until her brutal murder in 1985 lived in the Virunga, is credited with bringing the mountain gorilla’s plight to the world’s attention and most likely saving it from extinction.

Fossey’s isolated life in the mountains of Rwanda was immortalised in the 1988 Hollywood movie ‘Gorillas in the Mist.’— AFP

GABONESE ORPHAN GORILLAS SET FREE ON AN ISLAND

GABONESE ORPHAN GORILLAS SET FREE ON AN ISLAND

Text by Sarah Monaghan, images by SCD B.V.

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Six young gorillas rescued from the illegal bush meat trade, have begun new independent lives on a lagoon island just outside Loango National Park in Gabon.

The full story can be read here  

Over 300 gorillas killed annually in Congo

A new and shocking report by the Endangered Species International (ESI) reveals that over 300 gorillas are killed and sold for meat annually at Pointe Noire in the Republic of the Congo.  Using undercover methods at key markets in the city of Pointe Noire in 2008 and early 2009, ESI found that 95 percent of the illegal bushmeat sold originates from the Kouilou region about 100-150 km northwest to Pointe Noire where primary and unprotected rainforest still remains. The Kouilou region is one the last reservoirs of biodiversity and endangered animals in the area.

 Gorilla meat on sale

Gorilla meat is sold in the form of smoked meat already cut in pieces. A piece of hand size smoked gorilla is usually sold for 2,500 CFA (6 USD).

Other wildlife species sold in the local markets include mandrill, African rock python, spotted hyaena, great blue turaco, Nile monitor, and black-and-white-casqued hornbill.

Help us to stop the illegal trade in gorillas, make a donation today to support the year of the gorilla.

Baby Gorilla rescued in trafficking bust

Earlier this year we (WildlifeDirect) were approached by someone commissioned by a rich citizen of a middle eastern country, who wanted to know how to go about purchasing a baby gorilla. We were very disturbed at the request, and explained as politely as possible, the legal and ethical implications and consequences. Well, it’s obvious that there is a market for baby gorillas as has just been reported by the ICCN.

On Sunday a suspected gorilla trafficker was caught and arrested at Goma International Airport.  He arrived from Walikale with a baby eastern lowland gorilla hidden under clothes at the bottom of a bag.  This baby came from Congo which is the only place where this species is found. The baby was stressed and was “suffering from over-heating and dehydration after spending over 6 hours in transit”.

This video shows how the operation was conducted by the Virunga National Park. WildlifeDirects former CEO Emmanuel de Merode led the 3 month opearation. Congratulations to everyone at the ICCN – lets hope that justice will be served and the baby gorilla returns to it’s natural habitat.

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Read the ICCN press release here

ICCN wildlife officers jailed for gorilla habitat crimes

Four senior wildlife officers who had been arrested for the July 2007 killings of 5 mountain gorillas have been found guilty of a lesser charge o f destruction of flora and fauna.

Gorilla killings Virunga

There was insufficient evidence to link them to the killings of the gorillas and they were each fined US $ 5,000 and sentenced for 6 months imprisonment for the illegal charcoal trade which is said to have earned each of them up to $15,000 per month. The officers have been suspended from the ICCN.

Honore Mashagiro

The alleged mastermind of the gorilla killings Honore Mashagiro, is on trial. He is the former Director of the Virunga National Park and is accused of involvement in the illegal charcoal mafia and killings of the gorillas in July 2007.

This is the first time that the ICCN has prosecuted it’s own officers and represents a significant achievement towards zero tolerance of illegal activities by the wildlife officers.

Emmanuel de Merode, former CEO of WildlifeDirect, is the current Director of the Virunga Park. All of us at WildlifeDirect applaud Emmanuel and his team for this achievement, and look forward to continued successes in protecting the mountain gorillas.