Category Archives: Eastern Lowland Gorilla

The day a gorilla travelled by helicopter…

helicopter blog pic 1

Hi, this is Tuver,

It’s not often that you get to see a gorilla travelling by helicopter! But that’s exactly what I saw last week when the United Nations gave a lift to orphaned eastern lowland gorilla Ihirwe.

The young gorilla had been living in a special orphanage in Kinigi, Rwanda, for the past few years, after she was saved from smugglers who were planning on selling her as an exotic pet. Now, with the help of the UN, she has travelled to DR Congo, where she will live with a group of fellow gorilla orphans at the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Centre in Kasugho.

We all hope that, once she settles in to her new life, Ihirwe will get used to being with her own kind and learn how to be a gorilla again!

Here are some of the photos I took on that memorable day. As you can imagine, Ihirwe – whose name means ‘hope’ by the way – was more than a little nervous. However, the helicopter flight meant she was spared a gruelling day-long journey along bumpy roads. Plus, my colleagues at the GRACE centre have assured me she has got over her ordeal and is doing just fine.

helicopter blog pic 1

helicopter blog pic 3

helicopter blog pic 4

Keeping our gorillas safe and healthy!


Keeping a good distance between me and my friend!

Hi, this is Tuver,

A few couple of days ago I went to track gorillas at the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, which is located in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park currently holds 9 gorilla families of which 2 are open to tourists, who are always welcome at Kahuzi-Biega as the ongoing tourism aids the conservation of the low land gorillas that live here. However, there are a couple of things we have to consider when tracking them.

Our number one priority when visiting these great apes is to keep them safe and healthy by ensuring we keep the amount of pathogens spread between humans and animals to a minimum – just in case you were wondering why I was wearing a mask! This is also the reason why I kept a certain distance from the gorilla in the picture, as I was in fact following a rule called the 7-meter tracking regulation. This rule is very important as gorillas and humans are very closely related which means the chances of them catching diseases like influenza is very likely if we get in immediate contact with each other. Unfortunately, this is not always preventable as especially baby gorillas are always curious in getting to know tourists and trackers who come to visit them.


Eastern lowland gorilla at Kahuzi-Biega National Park


A gorilla vet pays a visit to Mt T…

Odilon in monitoring on dec 2d-1

Here’s Odlion (a member of the GO team) and Dr Eddy checking on the gorillas

Hi, this is Tuver,

As I’m sure you know, the last few months have been tough here for us in DR Congo. Fighting and general instability made it hard for us to carry on working as normal – which is why I’ve not updated this blog for a little while…

But, the good news is that, while times were certainly hard, we never lost sight of our mission, to protect our cousins, the gorillas, and their natural habitat. In fact, right at the end of last year, our colleagues at Mount Tshiaberimu were able to welcome Dr Eddy from the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP). The manager of the Gorilla Organization’s project here, Jean-Claude, showed him around the mountain and took him to see the small, but vital, population of eastern lowland gorillas living in this part of the Virungas.

Dr Eddy was also able to see some of our other work. For example, Jean-Claude showed him the education and community development projects that will play a vital role in ensuring these precious gorillas have a long-term future.

Mount Tshiaberimu is rarely free from trouble, but the team here are always alert and are dedicated to carrying on with their work, even in the most difficult of circumstances. Hopefully, with visits from leading figures in the conservation movement such as Dr Eddy, our voice will be even louder as we shout for greater protection for this isolated population of gorillas.

Here’s a couple of pictures of the recent visit that Jean-Claude sent over to me. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on all the latest news from here in DR Congo, hopefully more regularly now that the worst of the insecurity seems to have passed.

A happy new year to all our supporters, wherever you are in the world…

Dr EDY MGVP with Trackers on Dec 3ird

And here’s the team of brave, dedicated rangers who took Dr Eddy to the gorillas


Talking gorillas with the President…

Here I am, managing to speak with the President about gorillas!


Hi, this is Tuver,

As many of you may know, through my regular radio shows, I try and spread the message of gorilla conservation to tens of thousands of people here in DR Congo. Without doubt, this is vitally important if we are to make sure our children and our children’s children are able to enjoy a world with gorillas in it.

But, as well as reaching those people living right alongside the forests where the gorillas live, like those communities situated on the edge of the Virunga National Park, it’s also important that politicians have an understanding of just how precious gorillas are.

That’s why, when I was fortunate enough to meet the President of DR Congo, Joseph Kabila I talked to him about gorillas and what needs to be done to protect them. Mr Kabila was visiting the North Kivu Province pavilion at a special exhibition held in the capital, Kinshasa, recently when I spoke with him. Encouragingly, he expressed an appreciation of our country’s natural richness and praised the efforts being made by conservationists working in the North Kivu region, including those working so hard to protect the mountain gorillas.

Though it was only a brief chat – as you can imagine, the President is a busy man! – I hope my message got through. Now, back to my radio shows….





Introducing Pili-Pili

Hi, this is Tuver,

I want to introduce you to Pili-Pili. He is truly one of the unsung heroes of gorilla conservation. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Kahuzi Biega National Park you will meet Pili-Pili at the Tshivanga station – the entrance to the park. It is here that Pili-Pili greets visitors and shares his knowledge with today’s rangers.

Pili-Pili worked alongside Kahuzi Biega National Park’s founder, the late Adrian Deschryver, in the 1960s and was the first ever ranger to habituate gorillas in the park. As you can imagine he knows everything about the park and has more experience with gorillas than anyone I know.

Pili-Pili is now too old to make the trek in to the forest to see the gorillas (he is not sure himself how old he is), but he is a fountain of knowledge. The chief warden at the park, Mr Radar Nishuli, calls him the living library of gorilla conservation as he knows so much about the gorillas and is happy to share his vast experience with anyone who has the time to talk to him.

Here is a photo of me with Pili-Pili!

Tuver with Pili Pili

Update on baby gorilla twins

Hello this is Tuver,

I have just got back to the office in Goma after a trip to Kahuzi Biega National Park. I was hoping to get some photos of the new baby twins that were born into Chiminuka’s group in November. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to see the twins, their mother is being very protective of them and is keeping them away – which is great as she is keeping them very safe, but a shame that we don’t have any photos to show you.
Tuver with Chiminuka
I did however see Chiminuka (this is a photo of me with Chiminuka) – I have had the privilege of meeting him many times but I am always amazed at how strong and handsome he is. We were also delighted to see one of the other sets of twins in Chiminuka’s family. The photo below is of one of the twins up a tree – the rangers say the twins are now two years old and although they don’t yet have names they are looking forward to naming them soon.
one of the twins - 2yo
Fingers crossed we will get some photos of the new born twins very soon!

Twin gorillas born in Congo

Hi this is Tuver,

I have some exciting news. Our rangers at Kahuzi Beiga National Park have reported that twin baby gorillas were born a few weeks ago! The twins have been born in to the Chimanuka group and are the fourth pair of twins born in to this family.

There are fewer than 5,000 eastern  lowland gorillas remaining in the wild and Kahuzi Biega National Park, on the eastern edge of DRC, is home to one of the largest populations. The birth of the twins brings the number of gorillas in Chiminuka’s family to a grand total of 30, which is wonderful!

At the moment I don’t have any photos of the newborn twins but as soon as I do I will post them on the blog. In the mean time here is a photo of the magnificent Chiminuka – the proud father!

Eastern Lowland gorilla Chimanuka DRC 2006

GO makes plans for 2011

Hello, this is Tuver. I have just returned to Goma from Kampala.

Last week I joined the entire Gorilla Organization field team, and our director Jillian Miller, for the Gorilla Organization’s annual strategy meeting. Every year in October we get together to discuss the year that has just passed and to make plans for the following year. It is a great opportunity to share experiences with our colleagues from other countries, who are working with different gorilla populations, and we always come away with new ideas!


Here is a picture of us at the meeting. You can see Jillian, our director, to the right of the photo. Next to her is Aimee, who fundraises in our London office and did an amazing job of taking the minutes. At the end of the table is Emmanuel, our Rwandan Programme Manager,  Sam, our Ugandan Programme Manager and Henry, our Congolese Programme Manager.

We began the meeting by discussing the work that had taken place in 2010. The current economic climate has meant that it has not been the easiest of years but despite this we were all proud of what we have achieved. Our gorilla conservation work has continued, and all our African partners have completed their targets for the year with our support.

There are great plans for our projects for 2011, which will make a huge impact on the protection of the gorilla habitat and the gorillas’ long-term survival projects. 17 project partners hope to receive our support in 2011, as do the wildlife authorities of Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo. For all these plans to materialise we need to raise over US$800,000 – it is going to be a busy year!!

Please do get in touch if you would like to find out more about the specific plans we have for 2011 or if you are able to support our work during the coming year.

Thank you!

World Day of Peace

Last week, on 21 September we celebrated World Day of Peace here in Goma. The women of North Kivu and the Great Lakes region, including Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo, seized the opportunity by planting trees overlooking the town of Goma. Over 100 trees were planted to mark the occasion and cement peace in this troubled region.

The trees were provided by our resource centre and I joined the women on their 7km march to the site of the tree planting, where the Vice Governor of North Kivu Mr. Feller Lutaichirwa Mulwahale planted the first tree. These trees are not only a symbol of peace but also reinforce the reforestation of the area that began last year.

The World Day of Peace celebrations continued in Bukavu, where we also run projects to protect the gorilla habitat. President Joseph Kabila joined local women to deliver the torch of peace and all in all there was a very positive feeling surround this special day.

Have a look at some of the photos of the tree planting – it was a wet day but we were happy about rain as it is good for the trees!


Great Gorilla Run

Hello this is Emmanuel, I am the Gorilla Organization’s Rwandan Programme Manager.

This coming Saturday is the annual Great Gorilla Run in London, UK. Hundreds of people dress up as gorillas and run around the city to raise money for our projects out here in Africa – it is an amazing event.

Three years ago I was given the fantastic opportunity to travel to London and take part in the Great Gorilla Run – it was one of the best days of my life!

When I was told that I was going to London It was difficult to imagine what it would be like. And when I was told that I would be running 7kms around London dressed in gorilla suit … well, that was another point. I think my neighbours still remember seeing me running through the streets of Gisenyi, my town in Rwanda, as I trained for the Great Gorilla Run.

September arrived and I travelled more than 6000km to reach London. I was really excited to see what this town, which I have heard so much about, was really like!

The D-day arrived, and I met all the other gorilla runners at Minster Court and started putting on my gorilla suit. I was happy to wear number 700, the number of Mountain gorillas living in the world at the time.

Great Gorilla Run get ready to go

Until then, I was confident with my training, my thoughts were to win it. However, I realised that this was not going to be an easy run. As I waited at the start it was so strange seeing many different people excited about dressing as gorillas and trying to imitate their behaviours by either eating a banana, roaring or charging!

Each time, I was wondering what would happen if they saw real gorillas. Or, if those gorilla statues at Minster court were real gorillas seeing them!?!  Surely they would be delighted to see a human struggling to become a gorilla!!

Once the kick off was given, I started running following others and holding a collection bucket, which I was using to collect money from viewers enjoying the Sunday sun! I can remember being stopped by a couple, probably, they wanted to check if I was a real gorilla and to prove this I charged!!! They ran away but immediately came back and put some coins into the bucket before wishing me success!

Although I had studied the map of the run, I couldn’t locate myself between the high buildings. It was difficulty to see the sky and the sun which is how we traditionally find our way in Rwanda. I was simply following others!!

I can not remember how many bridges I crossed, I could not even remember how long it took me, what I remember is that I did it, it was amazing and raised I collected £75 in my bucket during the run!!

Can you spot me in the photo!