Tag Archives: Congo

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.


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.


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!

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 .



Text by Sarah Monaghan, images by SCD B.V.

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Six young gorillas rescued from the illegal bush meat trade, have begun new independent lives on a lagoon island just outside Loango National Park in Gabon.

The full story can be read here  

Over 300 gorillas killed annually in Congo

A new and shocking report by the Endangered Species International (ESI) reveals that over 300 gorillas are killed and sold for meat annually at Pointe Noire in the Republic of the Congo.  Using undercover methods at key markets in the city of Pointe Noire in 2008 and early 2009, ESI found that 95 percent of the illegal bushmeat sold originates from the Kouilou region about 100-150 km northwest to Pointe Noire where primary and unprotected rainforest still remains. The Kouilou region is one the last reservoirs of biodiversity and endangered animals in the area.

 Gorilla meat on sale

Gorilla meat is sold in the form of smoked meat already cut in pieces. A piece of hand size smoked gorilla is usually sold for 2,500 CFA (6 USD).

Other wildlife species sold in the local markets include mandrill, African rock python, spotted hyaena, great blue turaco, Nile monitor, and black-and-white-casqued hornbill.

Help us to stop the illegal trade in gorillas, make a donation today to support the year of the gorilla.

Baby Gorilla rescued in trafficking bust

Earlier this year we (WildlifeDirect) were approached by someone commissioned by a rich citizen of a middle eastern country, who wanted to know how to go about purchasing a baby gorilla. We were very disturbed at the request, and explained as politely as possible, the legal and ethical implications and consequences. Well, it’s obvious that there is a market for baby gorillas as has just been reported by the ICCN.

On Sunday a suspected gorilla trafficker was caught and arrested at Goma International Airport.  He arrived from Walikale with a baby eastern lowland gorilla hidden under clothes at the bottom of a bag.  This baby came from Congo which is the only place where this species is found. The baby was stressed and was “suffering from over-heating and dehydration after spending over 6 hours in transit”.

This video shows how the operation was conducted by the Virunga National Park. WildlifeDirects former CEO Emmanuel de Merode led the 3 month opearation. Congratulations to everyone at the ICCN – lets hope that justice will be served and the baby gorilla returns to it’s natural habitat.

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Read the ICCN press release here

Animated film about gorillas about to be released

The first ever animated film about mountain gorillas is about to be released it has just been announced  on the All Africa news website.

“Written in Luganda and titled Galiwango: Obulamu Bwe Kisodde, (The life of a Gorilla), the film aims to sensitise the public about the plight of mountain gorillas in Rwanda, the DRC and Uganda.

The film creater, US-based artiste Solomon Jagwe, relies on his skills and African roots to create a sombre but humour-filled animated film. His goal is to draw attention to the existence of this unique natural resource.

Galiwango is a tribute to Jagwe’s grandmother whom he says taught him how to tell stories as a young boy. “I remember sitting by her feet and listening intently as she recounted stories of Waguluddene, Wakayima and Wango.” he says.

Jagwe tells the story of the struggles and triumphs of the gorillas from a captured gorilla’s point of view. He weaves into the tale a human element of interaction with technology, war and humour.

Galiwango’s story begins in the thick tropical forests of the Virunga Mountains. Jagwe traces the gorilla’s journey after it is taken from Uganda and illegally sold to a research facility in an undisclosed Western country.

Years later, Galiwango’s journey comes full circle to Uganda.

A plane carrying equipment and a crate housing Galiwango, is shot down over the Virunga Mountains.

At the crash site Galiwango meets two other gorillas, Muwanguzi, an aging Silver Back and Lutalo, who carries a rifle. The rest of the story explores the dangers of living in a forest that is full of conflict and greed.

Close encounters with poachers and rebels drive the need by Galiwango and his friends to stay alert.

Jaggwe hopes that Ugandans can appreciate the rare gift they have in the mountain gorillas and fight against the possibility of their extinction”.

We can’t wait to see it!

China plundering Africa resources – Jane Goodall

We at WildlifeDirect have raised concern about China’s role in the accelerating elephant killings across Africa hwic his driven by China’s insatiable demand for ivory. The Government of China claim that they have excellent controls and education programs at home, and deny that China is having the impact that so many of us fear, on elephants, trees, apes and other species in Africa.

Jane Goodall has vindicated us. This news article was just published on AFP on 10th March 2009.

Primatologist Goodall: China plundering Africa resources

WASHINGTON (AFP) — China’s thirst for natural resources including wood and minerals is leading to massive deforestation in Africa and the destruction of crucial wildlife habitat, world-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall has said.

The British scientist who revolutionized research with her studies of chimpanzees beginning in 1960 warned that Beijing is pressing governments in central Africa’s Congo basin to sign over forest concessions in return for infrastructure and healthcare aid.

She said the process is helping decimate some of the largest populations of wild chimpanzees and gorillas in the world.

“These areas containing unlogged forests are very desirable to, particularly today, China, with China’s desperate effort for economic growth,” she told a Capitol Hill briefing attended by House of Representatives science and technology committee chairman Bart Gordon.

“Basically, they have almost exhausted their own supplies (of wood and minerals) so they go to Africa and offer large amounts of money or offer to build roads or make dams, in return for forest concessions or rights to minerals and oil,” Goodall, 74, said.

“I’m actually hoping (China’s growth rate) will be slowed a little bit by this economic crisis” in order to stem the deforestation, she said.

Goodall said the Chinese “have many enterprises in Congo-Brazzaville, and they’re certainly in DRC,” the Democratic Republic of Congo, two countries where deforestation and human encroachment have decimated wild primate populations despite efforts by the Jane Goodall Institute and other groups to reverse the trend.

“Their habitat is disappearing,” said Goodall, considered one of the 20th century’s leading scientists for her work with chimpanzees in what is now Gombe National Park in Tanzania.

She said it was crucial to work more closely with national and local governments in order to expand community-based conservation projects as a way to “offset offers from China.”

She also blamed the rampant bushmeat trade for helping devastate primate populations.

The trade is facilitated by foreign logging concerns building roads into once-inaccessible forested areas, and in some cases allowing hunters to ride in and out of the region on logging trucks.

Goodall’s institute is focused in part on expanding chimpanzee habitat in Gombe and working with local villages to rehabilitate denuded land and help create green corridors between Gombe and other areas with chimpanzees within the vast Congo basin.

The softspoken Goodall began her briefing in dramatic fashion, by imitating the wild call of a chimpanzee.

It could be interpreted as a cry for help — both for the primates and for the organizations working to protect them — as Goodall acknowledged that the conservation efforts could suffer a crippling blow over the next year and beyond due to the global financial crisis.

She told AFP that the downturn has made it more difficult to raise money for her work and for local governments to conduct or enforce conservation initiatives.

Great Virunga Transboundary Collaboration

Something very exciting is happening in the Virunga region. An ‘Inter-State agency’ is being created to coordinate conservation in the Virunga volcanoes called The ‘Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (GVTC)‘. The agency formalizes the ongoing collaboration between the three countries that share the Virungas, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda .

The GVTC’s will work to conserve, manage environmental resources and promote tourism in protected areas of the three countries especially the Virunga Park, which is home to hundreds of the only surviving mountain gorillas in the world. Administration of this agency will be vested in the Inter-Ministerial board, the Trans-boundary Core Secretariat and its affairs directly managed under an Executive Secretariat based in Rwanda.

With this new development, environmental management, law enforcement, gorilla census and tourism will be coordinated across the transboundary region.

We offer our heart felt congratulations to the ministers of the three countries and wish well in getting this initiative off the ground.

Russel Mittermeier on war and conservation

I just found an article in the Miami Herald titled “Protecting nature during war can aid recovery” by Russel Mittermeier and Thor Hanson which has enormous relevance to what is happening in gorilla range states throughout Africa, not least the DR Congo. It is such an important article that I’ve reproduced it in full here

Protecting nature during war can aid recovery

An urgent call to protect nature in the midst of violence and loss of human life may seem naive or misguided. But if you consider where most major armed conflicts take place, wartime conservation is one of the best hopes for wartime recovery.Our recently published paper, ”Warfare in Biodivesity Hotspots,” reveals that 80 percent of the world’s major armed conflicts have occurred in some of the most biologically diverse and threatened places on Earth. Conservation activities must remain strong during such conflicts to ensure that local people will have the natural resources they need to survive and reestablish healthy communities in the post-war period.

The world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots have within their borders more than three-quarters of the world’s most endangered species. More than half of all plant species and at least 42 percent of all vertebrates occur within the hotspots and nowhere else. Our study shows that these areas are hotspots in other ways as well. A total of 23 experienced a significant violent conflict in which more than 1,000 people died between 1950 and 2000, and many suffered repeated episodes of violence.

We must not abandon these places. Loss of healthy functioning ecosystems makes people more vulnerable to many other threats, including the spread of disease, famine and severe weather events such as massive flooding. A majority of the world’s poorest people who rely on natural resources for their daily survival live in the biodiversity hotspots, which are largely concentrated in developing tropical nations. Forests and other healthy ecosystems help cleanse freshwater supplies and provide sources of food, medicines and materials for building homes. Nature is often intertwined with centuries-old traditional lifestyles and unique indigenous cultures.

Violent conflicts have various far-reaching impacts on ecosystems. In some cases, the scale and technology has led to what has been termed ”ecocide.” Such was the case during the Vietnam War, when poisonous Agent Orange was dumped from low-flying planes, defoliating 14 percent of the country’s forest cover and more than 50 percent of its coastal mangroves — with disastrous consequences since mangroves provide some of the richest fish habitat, and they shield coastal communities from severe impacts of hurricanes and tsunamis.

Beyond the battlegrounds, indirect effects of conflict have more far-reaching impacts. In Sierra Leone, Cambodia and Congo, war money came from extensive timber harvesting, and the cultivation of illicit drugs has provided financing for violent conflicts in Afghanistan, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

War has devastating impacts on wildlife and other natural resources. Refugees are in no position to consider the environmental consequences of their actions. They hunt, gather firewood or build encampments to survive. The local proliferation of small arms leads to increased hunting for wild animals, or bush meat. And all too frequently, poaching during these lawless times leads to annihilation of wildlife, such as the loss of 95 percent of the hippopotamus in Congo’s Virunga National Park in 2006, and the deliberate slaughter of mountain gorillas in that same park in 2007.

Ecosystem protection must be integrated into military, reconstruction and humanitarian programs in the world’s conflict zones. Conservationists must work alongside these sectors in the wartime planning stage as well as during and after conflicts.

Supporting national institutions and local staff throughout the duration of a conflict is key. Local conservationists often remain to work in conflict areas because these places are their homes. Maintaining salaries and providing safe houses and funds to rebuild homes is an ethical imperative as well as a good conservation strategy. Yet very often the response of conservation organizations and other donor agencies is to pull out as soon as conflicts begin, which only exacerbates the problem over the long term.

The pattern of violence appears to be continuing into the 21st century. And while one must be cautious in speculating cause and effect, the fact that so many conflicts have occurred in areas of high biodiversity loss and natural resource degradation warrants much further attention.

Russell A. Mittermeier is president of the Arlington, Va.,-based Conservation International; Thor Hanson is an independent conservation biologist and author based in Washington state.

13 million hectares saved in Congo

It finally seems like things might be looking up in Congo. 2000 Rwandan troopes are working the the DRC military to flush out the perpetrators of the Rwandan Genocide.

Following a review of 156 logging concessions granted in recent years, 91 (60%) will be canceled and 13 million hectares in the DR Congo will not be logged. The remaining 65 logging operations will go ahead and clear nearly 10 million hectares. While the cancellation of contracts is a step in the right direction, it falls short of expectations. All of the canceled contracts were issued in questionable circumstances, just part of the rampant corruption in that country. The Congo Basin is the second largest tropical forest in the world after the Amazon and is home to thousands of great apes amongst other species. But it is being destroyed at a rate of over 800,000 hectares a year (an area roughly the size of Massachusetts) due to logging, mining and agricultural land clearance.

We will be bringing news from the ground shortly.