Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Back to work on Mount T

JC visiting his gorilla friends on Mount T

Hi, this is Tuver,

If you’ve been reading this blog, or even reading our ‘Digit News’ newsletters, you’ll know that Mount Tshiaberimu has not been a peaceful, happy place over recent months. In fact, Jean-Claude, who is the manager of our conservation project here, tells me he struggles to remember a time when he was able to carry out his important research without feeling under threat.

But JC is as determined as ever to make sure the project carries on as well as is possible. He was recently joined by a team of rangers from nearby Mutsora. With their support, he was able to go into the forests to look at the Kikyo patrol post, which was destroyed by Mai Mai militia way back in 2011. Sadly, given ongoing insecurity, as well as funding issues, the patrol post has yet to be restored, so the patrol came across quite a sad sight.

As you can see, however, the long, tough trek up Mount T was not in vain. The patrol were treated to an encounter with Mukokya, the blackback son of missing Tsongo. They were happy to report that he looks very strong and they are confident he will soon become an impressive silverback (male gorillas get their silverbacks when they are around 12 years old).

With Tsongo still missing (and, sadly, the team here fear the very worst for him), this is encouraging. Hopefully the ‘Mountain of Spirits’ as it is known locally, will soon have the strong leader it needs to protect its precious gorilla population from threats posed by poachers and militia.

Here are some pictures taken on the patrol…

May blog post pic 2

Coming across just one of the many snares set by poachers in the forests

May blog post pic 3

The team had to walk a long way, through tough terrain, on this patrol

May blog post pic 4

Arriving at the Kikyo patrol post, which was destroyed by rebels in 2011

Communities discuss the future of Virunga National Park

Hi, this is Tuver,

Communities living on the edge of the Virunga National Park understandably have a strong interest in ongoing conservation efforts here. After all, some of them are involved in the day-to-day management of the protected area, and many more are keen to see the region benefit from a strong and sustainable agricultural sector and the growth of gorilla tourism. At the same time, however, there are those who would like to exploit the rich natural resources of Africa’s first World Heritage Site.

These contrasting views were aired at the second forum on the management of preservation of the Virunga National Park, organised by the Congolese Wildlife Authority (ICCN) and held in Goma on May 14. At this meeting, I listened with interest as community representatives, government officials and representatives of several NGOs debated ways of limiting local dependence on the park as Julian Paluku, North Kivu district’s minister for agriculture, chaired proceedings.

Though the discussions were complex – and sometimes heated! – it was generally agreed that ongoing dialogue between local communities and the authorities will be crucial in determining the long-term future of the park. Good communication between all of the varied stakeholders, then, will be key to safeguarding the forest home of the critically-endangered gorillas for generations to come.

Here are some pictures I took at the forum, and I’ll be sure to keep you up-to-date with developments here in eastern DR Congo….

Forum blog post Pic 3

Several international NGOs, including the Gorilla Organization, attended the forum

Several international NGOs, including the Gorilla Organization, attended the forum

Open and honest dialogue will play a key role in protecting gorilla habitat

Open and honest dialogue will play a key role in protecting gorilla habitat

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.

Great Apes Legislation Subject of Congressional Hearing

I was directed to this piece of refreshing news from our good friend Christine C and I believe you’d also be happy to read it.

George Miller’s House Member Office (D-CA-07) posted a Press Release on January 27, 2010 | 1:34 pm (re-posted on GovNe.ws)

Rep. Miller’s Great Apes Legislation subject of Congressional Hearing
Obama Administration strongly supports Miller Bill
Wildlife groups call the bill “critical” to saving great apes from extinction

WASHINGTON, DC – The Obama Administration and several wildlife conservation groups today urged Congress to pass U.S. Rep. George Miller’s (D- Martinez) legislation to reauthorize federal aid to help conserve great ape populations around the world.

Miller introduced the Great Ape Conservation Reauthorization Amendments Act of 2010, H.R. 4416, in early January to reauthorize federal funding for international conservation efforts of gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, bonobos, and other great apes. Miller’s bill was the subject of a hearing today before the House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife.

“Great apes are our closest non-human relatives on the planet, but the threats they face from people are all too real,” Miller said. “We have seen the devastation of wild primate populations throughout Africa and Asia. Since the authorization of my great ape bill ten years ago, our relatively small federal investment has been matched by significant local and private funding, boosting efforts to save gorillas and other great apes. We must reauthorize the program to enable these successful programs to flourish.”

“The Great Ape Conservation Act provides an excellent example of how to produce focused and efficient means to support the conservation of species that are ecologically important and aesthetically invaluable to the American public and people around the world,” said Jane Lyder, the Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Department of the Interior in her testimony before the Congressional panel. “The Administration strongly supports H.R. 4416.”

Regarding the Great Ape Conservation Act, Sally Jewell Coxe, the President of the Bonobo Conservation Initiative said in her testimony: “I can’t imagine what we would have done without it or what the prospects would be today for bonobos and the other great apes had it not been for the critical, catalytic, and timely support GACA has provided … Without intensified efforts to protect them, great apes including bonobos may be extinct in the wild in a generation. The Great Ape Conservation Act is critical to prevent this tragedy. ”

Miller authored the original legislation in 2000 to provide federal funding through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for international great ape habitat conservation efforts, primarily in Africa and Asia.

The FWS Great Ape Conservation Fund has provided millions of dollars in federal matching grants to protect rare and threatened primates – including gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, bonobos, and other great apes. In 2009, the FWS awarded funds to 59 projects, many in African and Asian nations. Over $4.2 million was granted by the FWS, leveraging and additional $4.9 million from other organizations.

Miller is a long-time animal rights and conservation advocate and a leader in Congress on education, labor, the economy, and the environment. Miller is also the author of the Protect America’s Wildlife Act (PAW Act), legislation to protect wolves and other wildlife from the illegal and inhumane practice of airborne hunting.

More information about the Great Ape Conservation Fund can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/international/DIC/species/great_apes/great_apes.html

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 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 .

the World Challenge competition voting has now closed

Thank you to everyone who voted for the Gorilla Organization in the World Challenge competition for grassroots conservation. Voting has now closed.

A stream of local people came to the Resource Centre in Goma to cast their online vote for the fuel-efficient stove project in DR Congo, which has reduced charcoal consumption in areas near gorilla habitat.

The competition also generated lots of interest on worldwide websites, blogs and social networking sites, with lots of people voting for the project.

More awareness of the issues affecting the gorillas and the people living around the Virungas was also generated by television coverage of the project after it was broadcast on the BBC World News channel.

Unfortunately the ‘Jiko Rescue’ project was not one of the top-three winners, but to be chosen as one of twelve finalists out of nearly a thousand nominations is still a notable achievement. The winner of the World Challenge will be announced at an awards ceremony on 5 December.

Thank you to everyone who voted for the Gorilla Organization. If you would like to buy someone a ‘Green Gift’ for Christmas, you can purchase a fuel-efficient stove for a villager in DR Congo for only £15 ($25) at our online shop: www.gorillas.org/Shop

Meeting Titus just days before he died

Dear Friends,

This is a letter we recieved from Rusty Stewart about meeting Titus, the silverback made famous by Dian Fossy in Gorillas in the Mist.

SEPTEMBER 21, 2009

When I was at ORTPN getting my gorilla trekking permits and it was taking a long time I had an opportunity to watch a documentary about Titus, the Silverback who died last week at the age of thirty five.  He had a very interesting and tumultuous life which included being orphaned at a young age, dodging poachers successfully for years, surviving the Rwandan Genocide by moving to the very top of  Visoke to avoid rebels bent on killing gorillas, surviving the death of Digit,  the leader of his group and one of Dian Fossey’s favorites,  living in an all male group for several years and  finally taking over the group  and leading it successfully for years fathering many new babies.  He seemed to have a philosophy of life that made him charismatic and in my view very human.

With thoughts of Titus on my mind, I set off for Ruhengeri to start my gorilla trek. The trek starts at 0700 and the excitement in the folks was palpable. Each group has 8 people and our group set out with our guide to find our gorilla group.  After a short ride over a very rough road we de-camped. It was a tough 3 hour climb, steadily uphill, through a bamboo forest.  I would be lying if I suggested it was easy.  As the oldest in my group, I had a porter who helped me and I often needed his help.  Then we stopped, left our bags, poles,etc, walked on another hundred feet and there he was… our Silverback, sitting like a Buddha..

Mountain gorilla rwanda Titus

We were all mesmerized at how close we were to him.

Titus mountain Gorilla Rwanda

Our guide was able to speak gorilla which was great so if there was movement he could tell us whether we should be afraid or not.  Other gorillas started to arrive and we enjoyed a real show.  Three young gorillas and two mature females.

Titus mountain Gorilla Rwanda

Titus mountain Gorilla Rwanda


The young were intent on entertaining us, but when they came too close to us the Silverback would give what sounded like a small cough and they would run back up to him.

Too soon, our hour of excitement was over and we hiked back down the mountain.

What a thrilling experience, and certainly worth every penny!  I’ve included some of my favorite pictures so you can see how wonderful they are to see in their natural habitat.

I am just finishing Farley Mowat’s book Virunga, The Passion of Dian Fossey (Seal Books McClelland-Bantam, Inc, Toronto)  I am in I recommend it to anyone interested in her struggle to protect the Mountain Gorilla from poacher, and the encroachment of the world.

A word about why I’m in Rwanda right now.  My husband chose to spend a month here teaching anesthesia, as part of an ongoing project sponsored jointly  by the Canadian Society of Anesthesia  and  the American Society, in the university hospital programs in Kigali and Huye.  I have accompanied him and have done some volunteering for Vision Finance International the micro finance arm of the charity World Vision. We have also been accompanied by a young anesthesia resident from the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine. This  project has been going on for almost two years now and is being very well received.

Today my two adult children are here and they left in the last hour for Ruhengeri to have their own gorilla adventure.  Later all of us will leave Rwanda for Kenya and a Safari.

Titus mountain Gorilla Rwanda

Thank you Rusty for sharing this story with us. Rest in Peace knowing that you changed the world Titus. 

Paula

Republic of Congo: Up To Two Gorillas Killed for Bushmeat Trade Each Week

In the Kouilou region of the Republic of Congo, up to two gorillas are being killed each week, an undercover investigation by the conservation group Endangered Species International has revealed, exposing the scale of gorilla poaching in the country. This story was given world audience by the BBC Earth News portal. It is reproduced here below.

Scale of gorilla poaching exposed

By Jody Bourton
Earth News reporter

An undercover investigation has found that up to two gorillas are killed and sold as bushmeat each week in Kouilou, a region of the Republic of Congo.

The apes’ body parts are then taken downriver and passed on to traders who sell them in big-city markets.

Conducted by the conservation group Endangered Species International, the investigation helps expose the extent of gorilla poaching in the country.

It fears hundreds more gorillas may be taken each year outside the region.

The group began its investigation by going undercover, talking to sellers and traders at food markets in Pointe Noire, the second largest city in the Republic of Congo.

Over the course of a year, investigators visited the markets twice a month, recording the amount of bushmeat for sale.

“Gorilla meat is sold pre-cut and smoked for about $6 per ‘hand-sized’ piece. Actual gorilla hands are also available,” says Mr Pierre Fidenci, president of Endangered Species International (ESI).

“Over time we got the confidence of the sellers and traders. They gave us the origin of the gorilla meat and it all comes from a single region.”

The team then undertook an expedition to travel to the source of this meat, a forested area called Kouilou, which lies along the Kouilou River around 100 to 130km from Pointe Noire.

Using the same boats that ferry the gorilla meat downriver to the city, the investigators travelled upstream, taking photographs and recording interviews with villagers which revealed the extent of the gorilla poaching.

The investigators also undertook field surveys to ascertain the size of the population of wild western lowland gorillas living in the region.

“According to interviews and field surveys, we think we may have about 200 gorillas left in the area,” says Mr Fidenci.

“But we estimate that 4% of the population is being killed each month, or 50% in a year. It is a lot.”

The poachers particularly target adult gorillas of reproductive age which carry the most meat.

With such heavy hunting, the researchers believe gorillas could disappear from the region within a decade.

“During our mission we observed killing of gorillas in the wild. In less than one week and a half in one particular area we had two adult gorillas killed for their meat,” Mr Fidenci says.

All the meat appears to be consumed in Pointe Noire rather than being exported.

“The gorilla meat goes to the nearest, biggest and most profitable place,” says Mr Fidenci.

“Our study has disclosed the horrific scale of the endangered species market in the Republic of Congo, especially endangered gorillas sold as meat.”

Overall, ESI estimates that at least 300 gorillas are sold to markets each year in the country.

Crosshead

Western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) are one of two subspecies of Western gorilla, the other being the Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli).

Western lowland gorillas are considered to be critically endangered, as their population has fallen by more than 80% in three generations.

Between 100,000 and 125,000 western lowland gorillas are thought to survive across their entire geographic range which spans several countries.

But the dense and remote forest habitat in which they live often makes it difficult to reliably estimate the population size.

Mr Fidenci hopes to go back to Kouilou to find out more about the remaining gorillas living there and to find a way to conserve them.

“We intend to stop the killing in the area by providing alternative income to locals and working with hunters not against them. We hope to conduct conservation awareness with educational programs with other NGOs and to create a gorilla nature reserve.”

“We need to tackle the problem where it starts, right there where people and gorillas live.”

Currently, little is done in the country to prevent the poaching of bushmeat, Mr Fidenci says.

“Enforcement does not exist. Even though there are existing laws which protect endangered wildlife against such activities.”