Category Archives: Rangers

Gorilla missing in the mist!

Hi, this is Jean Claude,

To begin with, the entire staff and I would like to wish all of our supporters a Happy New Year from Mt. Tshiaberimu, in the DR Congo!

I was not able to write to you earlier this year as we are still working very hard on finding our lost Silverback Tsongo, from the Kipura troop. As some of you might know, he went missing around the end of November 2012 and has not been seen ever since. However, what we did find instead were about 200 snares and evidence of poaching, which sadly enough is still one of the biggest threats to gorillas’ existence.

Mwasanyinya

On one of my recent treks to find Tsongo, I came across his mate Mwasanyinya and son Mukokya (picture above) who are still in deep sorrow over the disappearance of the old silverback. It puts a strain on them, especially on the female, because the entire family is left without a leader and protector and her son Mukokya (10 yrs, picture below) is still too young to replace his father.

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Mwasanyinya’s grief over her lost mate shows how closely gorillas are related to humans as they even share similar emotions to ours. There are many studies that show that primates express themselves with facial expressions and are capable of feeling empathy and sadness. This has also shown in our latest monitoring on the female mountain gorilla as her eating habits have declined drastically since November.

It is a heartbreaking situation here at Mt. Tshiaberimu, which leaves us to hope that we will find Tsongo safe and healthy very soon. Until then we thank all of you for your ongoing support. I will write to you again soon, and hopefully with better news!

Celebrating as poachers give up their snares for good…

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Hi, this is Sam,

As you are no doubt aware, poaching is one of the major threats facing Uganda’s gorillas today. Though nobody goes into the forest to harm mountain gorillas on purpose, younger gorillas in particular can get caught in snares left for small mammals, often with tragic results.

Ever since we started our work here at the Kisoro Resource Centre, we’ve recognised that the main thing causing people to become poaching is poverty. Men and women living alongside the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest often have no choice but to go into the protected area for bushmeat, as well as for firewood, either for their own families or to sell at market. That’s why we set up our sustainable agriculture programme, to give people the chance to make a living without having to depend on the resources found in the forest.

It’s been so rewarding watching people improve their own lives. But nothing has matched the excitement we felt when we succeeded in getting a group of former poachers to join the programme. While these men used to make a living out of illegally entering the forests to lay down snares, now they are learning how to live off the land.

To celebrate this exciting development, we held a special ceremony in Rubuguri County Hall. Here, the poachers handed over their snares to Pontius Ezuma, the head ranger for both the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park here in Uganda. Also present was Gideon Ahebwa, the President’s representative in this region, as well as a number of rangers and community members. As you can see from these pictures, it was a happy and exciting day for everyone involved.

We’re all confident that these men can succeed in transforming their lives, which would be good news not just for them, but for the gorillas who will, of course, have fewer poachers to worry about…

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Rangers killed in Virungas

Hi this is Tuver,

I am really sorry to have to bring you some very bad news from the Virungas. Yesterday morning a vehicle belonging to the ICCN (the Congolese wildlife authority) was attacked. During the attack eight people were killed. Three of the victims were park rangers and five were members of the national army who were working with the rangers.

The car was traveling along the road between Mabenga and Rwindi through the middle of the park. It was deploying the men on board to help keep the road safe for local people as in recent weeks this area has been very insecure as a result of the presence of illegal armed groups. The early morning patrol car was attacked with a rocket-propelled grenade, the attackers fled the scene immediately on foot. We are not certain of who the perpetrators are or which rebel group they came from, however we do believe that they are from the FDLR Rwandan militia and the search continues to find the attackers.

This is the worst attack on ranger patrols in over a year. Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the families of these brave men who lost their lives.

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

Gorilla conservation goes pedal powered!

Hi this is Sam at the Gorilla Organization’s Ugandan resource centre. The last couple of weeks have been very exciting for us. We have launched a brand new gorilla consrervation project in Western Uganda – Africa’s very first pedal powered cinema for conservation! This innovative cinema will be showing educational conservation films to school children and communities in some of the most rural villages on the edge of Mgahinga National Park. Prior to the launch of this project, many of the children, and even their teachers, had never seen a film before – and many had never seen images of gorillas.

Here is a photo of the pedal-powered cinema in action. The viewers take it in turns to pedal the bike, which generates enough energy to power the film!

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Madeline Westwood, the director of the Great Apes Film initiative, who is partnering with the Gorilla Organization on this project, and Colin Tonks, the “wonder technician” and inventor of the cinema, came to Uganda from the UK to set this project running.

The first film showings were amazing – at one screening as many as 800 children came along to enjoy the Gorilla Organization’s film. And they were so excited – it was wonderful to see. The bike adds an extra element of audience participation to the screenings and children where queuing up to do some pedaling and power the film!

The children were amazed at what they saw. Some were so interested in the gorillas, and are now so desperate to protect them that they wanted us to make sure that their parents could watch the film too – I have no doubt that each and every one of them went home to tell their families about what they had seen. This is a huge step for gorilla conservation – the more local people who what to protect the gorillas, the more likely the gorillas are to survive long into the future.

As well as providing invaluable conservation education, the bikes provide an entirely clean source of power. No petrol is needed, no electricity is needed and as a result there is no negative environmental impact of showing these films.

Conservation education is now reaching remote communities, villages with no electricity and a whole host of others who have never before been able to see films or access this type of education – for this we are extremely proud.  In the three weeks that the project has been running 11,600 school children, 184 teachers, 110 soldiers and 46 park rangers, all living around the Ugandan gorilla habitats, have seen the films – wow!

Here is a photo of children transfixed by the film and the bike in motion!

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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!

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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!

The house that built gorilla conservation

A few weeks ago, I watched the Gorilla Organization’s director, Jillian Miller, well up with emotion as she sat on the steps of the small house in the Virungas that welcomed the American researcher, Dian Fossy, all those years ago. When Dian first came to Virungas to study the gorillas in 1974, she was based at this house in Rumangabo, which to this day is still the main headquarters for the Virungas National Park.
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But this house did not begin with Dian Fossey, in fact its history with gorilla conservation began during the early 1960’s when it was built by another famous gorilla conservationist George Schaller. Dian, who followed Schaller’s groundbreaking research, was thrilled to be staying in his hut when she first arrived in DRC.

Jillian met with the family who now live in the house and work as rangers in the Virungas to protect the same gorillas that Dian Fossey worked hard to protect in the 70’s. Jillian shared her memories of Dian and George with us all and for us it was so inspiring to hear first hand of the pioneers of gorilla conservation.

Schaller and Fossey were the first to demonstrate the deep compassion and social intelligence evident among gorillas, and how very closely their behavior parallels that of humans. The Gorilla Organization continues the conservation work they so bravely started from the little house in the Virungas.  Times have changed and approaches to conservation have changed with it, but we will always be inspired by the first gorilla conservationists.

Sad death of Nkuhene

Hi, this is Sam, I am sorry that my first blog post is not good news.

Last week was not a happy week for Uganda Wildlife Authority staff. They mourned the death of Nkuhene – an adult female gorilla belonging to the Mishaya group, led by the silverback Mishaya.Nkuhene Bwindi

Nkuhene’s sad death was the result of a fight between the silverback Mishaya, and his former group Nshongi. Both Mishaya and Nkuhene recently left the Nshongi group but the two groups still share the same range – near Rushaga to the south of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) and North of the Gorilla Organization’s office here in Kisoro.

We think that both the dominant Silverbacks were trying to win the affections of Nkuhene but sadly she got caught in the middle.

It was earlier this year that the Nshongi group divided into two. Park rangers say that that since the split they have witnessed a lot of fighting, and until one of the groups leave the home range, they expect the fighting will continue.

Nkuhene was buried by UWA officials last week at Mukajani in Bwindi National park.

May Nkuhene’s soul rest in internal peace.

Hello from the Gorilla Organization

Welcome to the Gorilla Orgaization’s new blog! My name is Abi and I work for the Gorilla Organization, out of its UK office in London. We are really pleased to be looking after this gorilla blog and will be keeping you posted from our gorilla conservation projects in Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo. Our African field team will be posting regularly on this blog directly from the field so please keep visiting us!!  Before I introduce the team I want to tell you a little bit about the Gorilla Organization and what we do.

The majority of our work is based in the communities living just outside the gorilla habitat. We work with local African NGOs and partners to help communities access all the resources they need outside of the national park. By giving communities access to fresh water, fuel and nutritious food, and helping them to lift themselves out of poverty we are able to relieve the national parks from human pressure and greatly reduce the damage caused to the gorilla habitat – one of the main threats to the gorillas’ long-term survival.

To support this work we run an education scheme that gets the communities involved with conservation and we also work with the wildlife authorities and a number of specialist teams of gorilla rangers. There is loads of information on our website www.gorillas.org so do have a look if you would like to find out more.

Introducing the GO team!

Henry Cirhuza

Henry Cirhuza

Henry is our Congolese programme manager and is based in Goma. He looks after projects over a large area in Eastern DR Congo spanning from Rutshuru on the edge of Virungas National Park to the communities in and around Kahuzi Biega National Park – home to one of the largest eastern lowland gorilla populations.

Emmanuel

Emmanuel Bugingo

Emmanuel manages our Rwandan programme and runs our lively resource centre in Ruhengeri, on the edge of the Volcanoes National Park and Rwanda’s mountain gorilla habitat. The projects here range from water cisterns and organic farming to wildlife clubs in schools so there is always a lot going on!

Sam Nsingwire

Sam Nsingwire

Sam heads up the Ugandan programme and is based in Kisoro on the edge of Mgahinga National Park which is part of the Virungas Massive. The projects here are all tailored to this unique area and I am sure Sam will tell you more!

Tuver Wundi

Tuver Wundi

Last but certainly not least is Tuver, who you will have met before on this blog. Tuver is the Gorilla Organization’s field communication manager and while he is based in Goma he travels throughout the region regularly, keeping on top of everything that is going on and collecting news for his weekly radio broadcast.

Right I will hand you over to the team, but do keep in touch, we would love to hear your comments!

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.