Category Archives: Year of the Gorilla

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

Local people in DR Congo are continuing to vote for the UN Year of the Gorilla project ‘Stoves for Survival’

Local people in DR Congo are continuing to vote for the UN Year of the Gorilla project ‘Stoves for Survival’ as the deadline quickly approaches for the end of voting in the World Challenge international competition.

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Voting closes on Friday 13 November.

Nobody knows how many votes have been cast, but here in Goma local people are expressing their support for the ‘Jiko Stoves’ project by coming to the Gorilla Organization resource centre to vote online.

People all over the world had the chance to learn more about the project by watching BBC World News last weekend, but sadly not many people in this area have access to satellite tv. However, we hope that the programme raised awareness among international viewers about the issues facing people in the Kivus.

The winner of the global World Challenge contest will be announced on 5 December, and we’ll let you know the result as soon as we know it.

Thank you to everyone who has voted for us so far. There is still time to vote here http://www.theworldchallenge.co.uk/2009-finalists-project04.php

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

Jiko Stoves project this weekend when it is shown on BBC World News.

People all over the world will have the chance to see the full film all about our Jiko Stoves project this weekend when it is shown on BBC World News.

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Our team here in DR Congo hosted the BBC film crew when they came to film our fuel-efficient stoves project for the international World Challenge competition for community conservation. The film-makers also went up to see the mountain gorillas who also star in the film.

Our story will be seen by people in DR Congo on Saturday 7th November at 1630 and on Sunday 8th November at 0430, 1130 and 1930 (all times are GMT + 2 hours).

It will be shown everywhere in the world on BBC World News. You can check your local timings here http://www.bbcworldnews.com/Pages/Schedules.aspx

We are so happy that people from all over the world will be able to see the difference that our project is making to the local communities here. Families with fuel-efficient stoves are now using on average just 1.5 sacks of charcoal a month compared to four sacks per month before. This not only helps the villagers, but is also helping to conserve the precious forests for our gorilla cousins, and helps in the fight against climate change.

Voting closes in the competition on Friday 13th November so if you haven’t voted yet, there is still time. If we win, the money would fund the project for a whole year. Vote here: www.theworldchallenge.co.uk/2009-finalists-project04.php


The people of Goma vote for Jiko Stoves

Every day, the residents of Goma come to the Gorilla Organization Resource Centre to cast their online vote for the local Jiko Stoves project, which has been chosen as one of only twelve finalists in The World Challenge 2009.

Local people are backing the UN Year of the Gorilla fuel-efficient stoves project, which is funded by GO in partnership with Aide-Kivu.

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Residents have heard about the project from word-of-mouth, and also from Radio Congolese National television (RTNC), which partners the Gorilla Organization for the weekly edition of the programme ‘Cosmos, Our World’.

Many people have been coming to the Resource Centre in Goma to make use of the internet and vote, and lots more people have been voting elsewhere at other internet points. This is a positive demonstration of how this project is very much appreciated by local people, and how they support the fight to save the gorillas from habitat destruction caused by deforestation of the natural habitat of this close cousin.

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People are voting for JIKO Stoves here: www.theworldchallenge.co.uk/2009-finalists-project04.php

Every voice counts.

A YoG song by James Oliver :-)

Hi there,

Have a look at this YoG song by US musician James Leo Oliver at the United Methodist Church’s Sing for Gorilla fundraiser, which took place in Marshall, Michigan, on August 14th. Bamm Bamm recordings helped with the recording, David Begg (who also was main organizer of the UMC’s series of YoG events this summer) provided video material and Glen Cole helped with the video production. Thanks, guys!

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/3dSJUySkJr8" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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.

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 – San Francisco Zoo, WCN and a paddle in the Pacific

Sharp-eyed followers of the YoG Blog  will have noticed that there are a few gaps in the record of my State of the Gorilla Safari across Africa… My apologies for keeping you in suspense but I promise they will be filled a.s.a.p.  In the meantime, after a week packed with UK activities – a succesful YoG lecture at Bristol Zoo, writing some articles and email interviews, thanking all who  sponsored my Great Gorilla Run knuckle-walk, a Born Free Conservation Team meeting and some extreme lawn-mowing (our garden is on a steep hill!) – I got up at 3:00am on Friday to get to Heathrow for a 6.35 Lufthansa flight to SF via Frankfurt (an odd route I know, but Lufthansa kindly donated the flights that made the YoG US lecture tour possible).

San Francisco is on the coast, with only a couple of sand dunes to break the wind that sweeps in from the Pacific. Looking West, there’s nothing but waves all the way to Japan!  The SF zoo staff made me feel very welcome and showed me round the gorilla facility,  where they had recently successfully hand-reared a baby – Hasani, rejected by his inexperienced mother  -  for his first few months, then adopted him out to an un-related female with better mothering skills than his own mother, who now seems quite happy with the arrangement and occasionally plays with him. Sitting by the prison-like steel cages of their indoor quarters, I admitted how hard I find it seeing gorillas (and other animals) in captivity.  We discussed whether wild gorillas ever rejected their young — it has never been observed, but not only do wild infants benefit from their own mother’s undivided attention for the first four years or so of their childhood, they then get to watch their mother and other females with their babies and to practice their parenting skills by borrowing babies once they are old enough to venture out of their mother’s protective embrace.

San Francisco Zoo

It was amazing to see how Hasani’s adopted mother cared for him, and kept him clear of the silverback’s displays – he was stressed by my presence so we adjourned to the public viewing area outside, but he knew we were there and strutted across the grass and rocks blowing raspberries, which was his habit when tense I gathered.  The question of the ethics of keeping such intelligent animals in captivity will be debated passionately for many years to come, but the one thing that both sides of this debate recognise is that we don’t have the luxury of that many years to halt the decline in most wild gorilla populations. 

Silverback Western Lowland Gorilla at San Francisco Zoo - Photo Ian Redmond

This is why the YoG focuses on conservation of gorillas in their natural habitat, and why more than 100 zoos around the world are through WAZA holding YoG events to raise funds for priority projects. These projects all aid in the implementation of an  Action Plan under the CMS Gorilla Agreement, a new legally binding treaty between the governments of countries with natural gorilla populations.

The SF Zoo event was a lecture and about 50 gorilla enthusiasts ignored the glorious Autumn sunshine to gather in the education centre to hear about the SoG Safari and how trees that grew from seeds dispersed in gorilla poo (the kids always love this bit!) pump water into the atmosphere and create weather systems that travel round the globe and water the crops here in California

Across town at exactly the same time, YoG Patron Jane Goodall was telling two packed halls (one video-linked to the other) of the importance of chimpanzees as well as gorillas and environmental stewardship in general, at the annual Wildlife Conservation Network.  I caught up with her later that afternoon, perched on a stool in the sunshine with a long queue of fans clutching copies of her new book  and graciously chatting to each in turn while a photographer recorded each encounter, providing an inspirational momento that will likely become a family heirloom for every recipient.  Jane asked about last Saturday’s Great Gorilla Run and  I thanked her for sponsoring me and showed her my healing knuckle-blisters (she hadn’t realised I did most of the 7km on all fours).  

YoG Patron Jane Goodall and YoG ambassador Ian Redmond share a laugh. Picture by Tyler Shaw.

We compared schedules (I am always awed by Jane’s energy in the face of an itinerary that would exhaust someone half her age) and found that our paths are next likely to cross at the UN Climate Convention in Copenhagen, where we will both be speaking up for the Gardeners of the Forest and hoping that the next climate treaty that will follow the Kyoto Protocol (which runs out in 2012) will include the carbon in tropical forests.
 
The WCN also brought many other leading conservationists to SF, including Iain Douglas-Hamilton, fighting to Save the Elephants, Claudio Sillero, fighting to save the Ethiopian wolf, John Hare, fighting to save the Bactrian camel, Isobel Lackman fighting for the orangutans of Borneo, and Gladys Kalema, flying the YoG  flag and seeking support for Conservation through Public Health.  Mingling with this stellar display of heroes of the planet were hundreds of generous donors ranging from those contributing by buying crafts made by communities in conservation hotspots to major donors – all brought together by a determination to engage with the problem rather than hope that someone else will do something.

This was my first experience of WCN but I was beginning to see why so many consider it one of the most inspiring and important events in the conservation calendar.

Today I was surprised to find I had a few hours to  myself, so enjoyed a walk along the dark sands of SF beach paddling in the bracing Pacific surf (in the English sense of wading up to your knees, not in the canoe sense) and watching an assortment of avian waders racing the waves and probing for food with their long beaks.  A friend then took me to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass,  the free festival in Golden Gate Park, where the Chieftons had the crowd dancing to Celtic rhythmns, Earl Scruggs the father of Bluegrass celebrated his 85th birthday on stage in a stomping set, and Marianne Faithful sang to an adoring crowd as the sun sank behind the trees. 

Bluegrass festival, San Francisco

Tens of thousands of people politely crammed into the park – we really are the most gregarious primate on the planet – and a great time was had by all.  I wished that some of these musical icons had known about YoG and told the crowd about it, but maybe next year we can persuade the organisers to incorporate the theme of wildlife for the 2010 UN Year of Biodiversity – afterall, bluegrass stems from communities living close to nature, and what better way to celebrate Nature than a free folk festival in the park?   Watch this space…