Category Archives: Threats

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.

C1069

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!

No summer tourism for the Virungas National Park

Tourists taking pictures of one of the gorillas at the Virungas National Park

Tourists taking pictures of one of the gorillas at the Virungas National Park

Hello, this is Tuver,

Unfortunately the situation at the Virungas National Park here in DR Congo still doesn’t look very good. As you might know, the last couple of months have been very difficult since a militia called M23 occupied the territory, threatening the security of the mountain gorillas living in the park.

The situation has degraded further now since the Mountain Gorilla Sector not only remains occupied by the rebels but also since last week the militia has been in control of the town of Bunagana, located at the border between Uganda and DR Congo. This place is one of the main entry points to the park so it makes the situation even more difficult.

All of these problems suggest the outlook for the rest of this summer is far from good and this is having a devastating impact on the fragile but precious tourism industry here. The authorities at the Virungas National Park have already cancelled all the trips for this month and for August and the situation will be reviewed until the 20th of July.

I will keep you posted regarding the decision the authorities take for the coming months. In the meantime, I can only hope the situation gets better, especially for our gorillas living in the park.

Tourists watching gorillas in the wild

Tourists watching gorillas in the wild

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.

Aide Kivu boosts production of fuel-efficient stoves

Hello, this is Tuver,

Today I met with Deo Kalus, the director of local organisation Aide Kivu, and our partner for the Jiko Stoves project. Deo has passed on great news about the project and I am pleased to share this with you.

Jiko stove in productionSince May of this year Deo and his team have manufactured 110 new fuel-efficient stoves in his workshop on the outskirts of Goma, which is a real achievement. During this time many many households have applied to receive a stove and some are already benefiting from this simple but very clever technology!

The stoves use much less fuel than a traditional open fire, in some cases up to 80% less fuel, which is great news for the environment and the gorillas. Illegal charcoal production in the national park has caused severe damage to the forest, so reducing the demand for this fuel plays a key role in protecting the habitat.

a jiko stove in useI went to visit Madame Kavira Mwasi, who is benefiting from one of these fuel-efficient stoves. Kavira is very grateful for all the time and money that the stove has saved her and she hopes that all the households around Goma will benefit soon.

I hope this project continues to succeed – its contribution to the fight against lung disease, poverty and safeguarding the gorilla habitat is quite amazing for such a small piece of technology.

YoG Epilogue, thoughts on Copenhagen, and more

This article was provided to us by YoG Ambassador Ian Redmond. Thank you Ian for your outstanding and exemplary efforts throughout the YoG!!


“A belated Happy New Year to all readers – in fact Happy New International Year of Biodiversity! (see http://www.cbd.int/2010/welcome/).

This year the UN has broadened its scope to raise awareness of all biodiversity – the millions of species of animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms with whom we share the planet. This is partly because the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) set targets for 2010 to reduce the loss of biodiversity. These 2010 targets (and how badly we have missed them) will be on the agenda at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the CBD in Japan this September (http://www.cbd.int/cop10/).

Sliding smoothly from YoG to IYB (for some reason it was decided the Year of Biodiversity acronym wouldn’t follow the pattern of YoG…) is quite fitting, given that gorilla habitat is among the most bio-diverse on earth, and directly or indirectly many of the species therein are ecologically linked to gorillas.
I’ll return to this theme later, but first I must report on my visit to the Climate Conference in Copenhagen.

I was there for a week (10th – 16th December), but left before it was due to finish. Then the drama continued into Saturday 19th, the deal wasn’t sealed, and the Copenhagen Accord fell short of the world’s hopes and expectations. This was such an anti-climax and only now are assessments of the way forward beginning to appear (see http://unfccc.int/2860.php and http://climate-l.org/guest-articles/ga32.html for the official view, and for independent comment, see for example http://www.globalcanopy.org/main.php?m=120&sm=169&bloid=49, http://www.stakeholderforum.org/fileadmin/files/Outreach_issues_2009/OutreachFinalWrapUp.pdf and http://www.climaticoanalysis.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/post-cop15-report52.pdf).

Copenhagen was closely followed by Christmas and New Year, and for me a chance to spend some time with my family (in India, where we saw some amazing cultural as well as biological diversity – but those experiences will appear elsewhere. There was one unexpected YoG outcome from India, which was bumping into Dave and Debs, a couple of Canadian bloggers, who wrote a nice piece about the encounter at: http://theplanetd.com/ian-redmond-talks-about-gorillas#comments – thank you PlanetD).

Let me now take you back to mid-December and how it felt to be in the melée of Copenhagen:
The main event was the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in the Bella Centre, but Copenhagen was filled with (according to some reports) more than 100,000 visitors attending film festivals, climate camps, demonstrations, business meetings and scientific seminars.

I escaped from the Conference on Saturday 12th to join some 40,000+ people on the Climate March, which for the most part had a carnival atmosphere, with floats, banners, kids and grannies. It was a great experience – civil society making a point peacefully (I missed the violence and arrests that grabbed the headlines – e.g. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/copenhagen/article6954510.ece).

Amongst all the people dressed as penguins and polar bears I did find one person in a gorilla costume – a German student who had come up on the train with friends – but until we met he didn’t know it was the Year of the Gorilla nor the role of gorillas in climate change mitigation (he does now!).”

15th December 2009: “It is snowing here in Copenhagen. A freezing cold wind cuts through the long queue of people trying to enter the Bella Conference Centre, where it is warm and until now welcoming (security concerns surrounding the arrival of 100 heads of state and their entourages has led to increasingly severe restrictions on the number of civil society participants allowed into the building, causing frustration and long queues). Our Danish hosts have gone to great lengths to give space for conservation NGOs, governments and UN agencies to display their reports and present their data. Every day is filled with dozens of side events inside the Bella Centre, and dozens more at parallel events taking place at several locations around Copenhagen.

The amount of passion and creative energy, the amazing expression of science and art, is simply staggering – all to inform and to influence the negotiators who are working day and night to come up with text to which all 190 or signatories to the UN Climate Convention can agree. It is an historic moment (note: at this point we were still hopeful), and fitting that it should be in the closing month of the UN Year of the Gorilla.

All year we have been stressing that YoG is not just about gorillas. It is true they are an iconic animal for the Congo Basin forests, and that they symbolise efforts to protect the planet’s second green lung, but there is more to it than that – they are also keystone species in their habitat. This means that just as the removal of a keystone in a bridge or stone arch would cause it to collapse, so the removal of a keystone species will cause a cascade of other species extinctions. In the forests of the ten countries that have gorilla populations, the health of those forests is linked to the balance between thousands of inter-dependent species of animals, plants, fungi and micro-organisms – all part of the forest ecosystem.

Unfortunately, most people (and probably most climate negotiators) hear the word ‘forest’ and think of trees. In the context of climate change, where about a fifth of global, human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are caused by deforestation and forest degradation, the word forest is associated with carbon – hence the idea of REDD+ in the new climate treaty (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation – with the plus signifying the additional ‘co-benefits’ that would arise from saving forests, such as rainfall, poverty reduction in forest-dwelling communities and halting biodiversity loss).

With colleagues from the CMS (www.cms.int ), CBD, CI and the Global Canopy Programme, I have been spreading the word here in Copenhagen too, on the importance of gorillas and other seed dispersal agents.

On 13th December, at Forest Day 3, in a panel discussion with scientists working out methods to estimate accurately the losses and gains in forest carbon, one commented that their job was to focus solely on how much carbon was in a forest one year, and whether it had gone up or down the next time it was measured. I pointed out that if you weigh a car, and then remove the cogs from the gearbox and weigh it again, the difference in weight will be tiny but the car will no longer function. Similarly, if we think of animals as the cogs of the forest, uncontrolled commercial hunting may not alter the amount of carbon by much in the short term, but in the medium to long term, instead of a functioning natural forest we are left with a collection of trees whose chances of leaving descendants is greatly reduced.

About 80 per cent of tropical tree species produce seeds that are dispersed by animals. Germination trials in many research sites have shown that more of these seeds germinate and have a higher seedling survival rate if they have passed through an animal’s digestive system and been deposited in a nice package of manure (dung) far from the parent plant. Small seeds may be eaten by birds and small mammals as well as apes and elephants, but the larger the seed, the larger the animal needed to swallow it whole.

Botanists have long noted that tree species with large seeds tend to have denser wood (which means more carbon per cubic metre) than those with small seeds. This is an important argument for protecting large animals. One of the big issues in the debate about forest carbon is the permanence (or not) of the carbon stored in forests. How long will the forest be there? When a tree falls naturally, it decomposes and its carbon returns to the atmosphere unless there are new trees growing in its place. A healthy forest has been found to continue sequestering and storing carbon.

Next time you visit a natural forest, ask yourself, “Who planted the trees?” In the tropics, the chances are high it was an elephant (in Africa and south Asia), a primate or a fruit-eating bird or bat. Think of each tree as the result of an ecological event – an animal once ate a seed – maybe centuries ago – and a few weeks later, a seedling grew from a pile of poo.

It follows then that to ensure permanence in forest carbon, we must ensure these ecological events keep happening. In my view, uncontrolled commercial hunting is just as important a form of forest degradation as any removal of wood or vegetation – it is the removal of an essential component of the forest ecosystem. Ergo, hunting must be controlled just as logging, charcoal making and clearance for agriculture must be controlled if a healthy forest is to endure.

Whilst the outcome from Copenhagen was disappointing, it is surely better to delay and get it right than force it and get a treaty full of flaws. The negotiations continue and a legally binding agreement seems possible this year – this gives every interested person (and I hope that means you, Gentle Reader) more time to make their views known to their governments. It is a long and complex process, but in the end we must ensure the ecosystem services provided by primates and their forest habitats are protected for the future of all life on Earth.”

Ian Redmond

Year of the Gorilla Ambassador in appeal at World Forestry Congress

Based on an article by Paula Scheidt Manoel.

Year of Gorilla Ambassador Ian Redmond said during the World Forestry Congress, recently held in Buenos Aires, that protecting animals and stopping bushmeat trade are not a matter of choice, but are actually an essential part of forest preservation. He stated: “Forests don’t have biodiversity, they ARE biodiversity. If we take out the animals, we are removing a key element of the forest life cycle”.

Animals are crucial for seed dispersal, as many plants can’t germinate without first passing through the digestive tract of species such as gorillas, elephants or birds. According to Redmond, 75% of forest depends on animals to maintain species richness and the natural cycle. More biodiversity, Redmond emphasized, also means a bigger capacity of the forest to overcome with adverse situations, such as changes in rain patterns that can occur as a result of global warming.

Hunting for bushmeat contributes strongly to the extinction or significant reduction of some species, among them gorillas. At the same time, in a number of tropical countries bushmeat is also an important source of protein for people. “In at least 62 countries, wild animals and fish constitute a minimum of 20% of the animal protein in rural diets”, says a bushmeat study by the UN Biodiversity Convention. In Central Africa alone, 30% to 80% of the total protein ingested by farmers comes from hunting.

Redmond explained that in places where there is a market for this meat nearby, it stimulates hunting. “The trade in bushmeat is leaving the forests empty. My hope is that some explicit statement about it would be made by countries if they decide to include a payment for the carbon store in the forests in the new climate deal”.

A new agreement to control global warming will be discussed at a United Nations summit this December in Copenhagen. One of the key points being negotiated is a mechanism to reduce deforestation in developing countries through financial incentives for forest protection from developed nations, called REDD (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).

Deforestation is highlighted by a global community of scientists as responsible for about 20% of total CO2 emissions, which they say is the main cause of the increase of temperatures. It adds up to 5.86 billion tons of carbon dioxide, as much as is emitted by the United States or China per year.

To read this and other articles online, go to http://www.climatemediapartnership.org/reporting/stories/gorilla-ambassador-demands-bushmeat-controls/

For more about YoG, visit www.yog2009.org

Ian Redmond concludes US lecture tour for YoG

Ian Redmond, Year of the Gorilla Ambassador, has concluded his US lecture and fundraising tour. He started out on the West Coast, speaking in San Francisco, San Diego and the LA area and finished with a press event at the German Embassy in Washington DC.Ian's LA Zoo talk, Photo by Laurel Colton

Redmond’s talk is built around the fact that large mammals like gorillas and elephants are keystone species in habitats that provide ecosystem services like fresh water and clean air for the whole planet. Gorillas fertilize and disperse seeds through their dung, which regenerates the forests. Saving the gorillas will help preserve these ecosystems that directly determine human survival.

He also talked about his own experiences working with gorillas in Africa, showing videos of gorillas in the wild and describing his recent fact-finding mission to the gorilla range states.

YoG Cake, LA Zoo. Photo by Tad Motoyama.

According to Redmond, by 2030, only 10 percent of gorilla habitat will remain free of human impacts. Gorilla populations have had some recovery successes, but their numbers continue to drastically decrease. As YoG Ambassador, Redmond travels the world, talking to politicians, NGOs and addressing the public to promote the conservation of gorillas and to gather funds for projects.

We thank all organisations and individuals who helped to make this tour happen, in LA (see below) and elsewhere!!

Los Angeles Zoo event planning committee. Photo by Tad Motoyama.

Project to Apply the Law on Fauna : First annual report

Here are the first results for PALF (Project to Apply the law on Fauna), a successful project developped by The Aspinall and Foundation and WCS in Republic of Congo

Investigations

266 investigative missions of varying duration were carried out across Brazzaville’s seven departments.

Operations

17 operations carried out across Brazzaville’s departments resulted in the interception of 19 traffickers, i.e. an average of one trafficker intercepted every 19 days ;

The percentage of traffickers serving a prison-sentence following these operations is 68%.

Legal

16 cases were brought before the court of which 5 resulted in a sentence:

o   In March 2009, a trafficker caught selling a live chimpanzee was sentenced to one year in prison, plus an additional fine of 100,000 FCFA and 1,000,000 FCFA in damages ;

o   In August 2009, an ivory sculptor was given a suspended sentence of three years in prison, plus an additional fine of 500,000 FCFA and 800,000 FCFA in damages;

o   Two detainees were released due to a lack of incriminating evidence and three others were given a suspended sentence and were also fined.

The project created a legal guide entitled « Wildlife law for the protection of endangered animals in the Republic of Congo” and has since distributed 600 copies.

Media

293 articles have been released (TV, Radio, written press), an average of 0.75 articles per day. This daily average increased to 1.25 articles following the recruitment of a journalist to the project in March 2009.

 Main points of note

One gorilla and three chimpanzees were seized from traffickers and transferred to the Lesio-Louna Natural Gorilla Reserve (www.ppg-congo.org), the Tchimpounga chimpanzee sanctuary and Help-Congo, respectively. In addition, one mandrill skin and hand and one gorilla hand were also seized.

8 operations were conducted as part of a mission to target the illegal trade in panther pelts.

6 operations were carried out targeting the trade in ivory.

2 of these operations concerned African expat citizens.

YoG Ambassador speaks at Cal State University Fullerton – VIDEO

Ian Redmond, a tropical field biologist and conservationist, spoke about the dangers of decreasing ape populations at a presentation hosted by the Department of Anthropology on Thursday. Several hundred students attended to hear Redmond speak about the importance of ape conservation and their impact on the world. Redmond’s presentation was titled, “Save the Gorillas to Save the World.”

Redmond detailed the impact of gorillas, both currently and if they become extinct, on the world. According to Redmond, by 2030, only 10 percent of great ape habitats will remain free of the impacts of human development in Africa. Only 1 percent of orangutans will avoid the same impacts in Southeast Asia. Gorilla populations have had some recovery successes, but their numbers continue to decrease.

Redmond explained that gorillas are essential to the survival of ecosystems in their home countries, as they fertilize and disperse seeds through their dung, which regenerates the forests. [kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/hGhSQbqKSMo" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]Protecting gorilla habitats preserves forests, which in turn decreases the amount of carbon dioxide that enters the atmosphere from a reduced number of trees and the harvesting process. Redmond concluded his talk by stating primates are keystone species in habitats that provide ecosystem services for the whole planet. Saving the gorillas will preserve ecosystems that directly determine human survival.

Read the full article here.

For more information on YoG and the projects you can support through it, go to www.yog2009.org.

Ian Redmond’s State of the Gorilla journey is over – but there is still plenty more

Ian is back in the UK, catching up with himself and preparing for his next journey, this time to the concrete jungles of LA, San Diego etc. to fundraise for YoG through a lecture tour.

As the regular reader of this blog will remember, Ian did numerous video interviews and collected other video material. Unfortunately, the files were too large to upload as he went, but we are now receiving them.

One of Ian’s first visits in the Dem. Rep. of Congo was to the Kahuzi Biega National Park, where he interviewed Head Ranger Radar Nishuli on the ever-volatile situation there and on what he thinks of the YoG. Enjoy!

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/-bwnqWvBH_Y" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]