Category Archives: Eastern Lowland Gorilla

The Gorrilla Organization’s Ian Redmond returns to the Congo’s coltan mines with Daily Mirror investigators

Illegal mining for key smartphone minerals continues a decade after The Gorilla Organization helped to reduce the impact of mineral extraction in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Ian Redmond OBE, chairman of The Gorilla Organization, accompanied Daily Mirror reporter Tom Parry and photographer Rowan Griffiths for their front-page investigation.
The organization brought governments, local community groups and the electronics industry together from 2003 to 2008 to create the Durban Process for Ethical Mining.
Jillian Miller, executive director of The Gorilla Organization, said: “The Daily Mirror’s investigation has highlighted the ongoing threat to gorilla populations from illegal mining for blood minerals.
“The demand for these rare metals has devastated the eastern lowland gorillas, and it is essential that we continue to work with local communities and support the work of the park rangers.
“When local people can support their families with farming and other safe activities which do not harm the gorillas, they are happy to turn away from the dangerous practise of illegal mining.”
A decade ago, miners had flooded the Kahuzi-Biéga National Park in the Congo as the boom in smartphones and games consoles caused the price of the rare mineral tantalum to soar.
Eastern lowland gorillas living in the park suffered a devastating decline as they were hunted for bushmeat and their habitats were destroyed by the miners and armed militias who control the trade in coltan ore, which is processed to produce tantalum.
Coltan mining declined in response to the Durban Process and a fall in the price of tantalum, by which time just a few thousand gorillas were left living in the wild.
While coltan isn’t priced at the $600 per kilo it could fetch at its peak, along with other metals like tin it’s still valuable enough to make the dangerous mining by hand worthwhile.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature put the eastern lowland gorilla on its Red List in 2016 as the population continued to decline.
The Gorilla Organization helps local groups train miners and their families to turn to less damaging activities outside the national park, like farming, as well as training and supporting park rangers to prevent illegal mining and forest clearance.

New trees bring new hope for gorillas and people…

Hi, this is Tuver ,

Last week I was invited to a tree planting ceremony at a community in Kalehe Territory, South Kivu. The community is one of many that borders the Kahuzi Biega National Park, one of the last refuges of the endangered eastern lowland gorilla.

Like most of the small towns and villages dotted throughout this part of DR Congo, for many years now, community members have had little choice but to go into the protected forest and cut down trees. They know this illegal and they are know that the ecosystem here is fragile and must be protected at all costs. However, with near-constant war cutting them off from the rest of the country and poverty widespread, most feel they have little choice but to take the risk and enter the forest in search of food and fuel.

Almost ten years ago now, the Gorilla Organization started working with these communities, helping them plant fast-growing trees they could use for firewood. These tress serve as a valuable buffer between gorillas and their cousins in the forest.

And our efforts continue. So far, we’ve planted around 160,000 trees on the borders of Kahuzi Biega National Park, and I just recently watched a few more go into the ground.

As you can see from the pictures I took, the whole village turned out to learn about why the trees are being planted. These pictures should also give you some idea of how much forest has been lost and how we are working to address this. And let’s not forget, more trees is not just good news for gorillas needing food and shelter! It’s also good news for humans, too, as we start to feel the effects of climate change here in Africa.

The whole village turned out to hear why we were planting more trees

The whole village turned out to hear why we were planting more trees

Here are some trees we planted just a short time ago...

Here are some trees we planted just a short time ago…

But as you can see, much of the forest has been cut down to use for farming

But as you can see, much of the forest has been cut down to use for farming

And here's me, checking out the fully-grown trees that help keep the gorillas safe

And here’s me, checking out the fully-grown trees that help keep the gorillas safe

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!