Tag Archives: mountain gorilla

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!

Mountain Gorillas To Get Counted in Vital Census

We have learnt that the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) will support a Mountain Gorilla census in March and April this year through the International Gorilla Conservation Project (a coalition of AWF, WWF and FFI). The Mountain Gorilla Vet Project (Gorilla Doctors) is also one of the  partners in the census. Read the announcement that is posted on the AWF Website.

KIGALI, RWANDA–The critically endangered mountain gorilla’s current status is to be revealed through a census to determine its population size in the Virunga Volcanoes area that straddles the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda in Eastern and Central Africa. The Virunga Volcanoes is one of only two locations where mountain gorillas live, whose total numbers are currently estimated at 680 individuals. Though the area is now relatively calm, recent conflict in the Mikeno sector of Virunga National Park in the DRC has left the gorillas there vulnerable. The last Virunga Volcanoes census in 2003 resulted in an estimate of 380 individuals, with the remaining individuals living in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park Uganda. The Wildlife and National Park Authorities of Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC will collaborate on the census, which is planned for March and April 2010.

The census is an opportunity to make an accurate count of the total gorilla population in the Virunga Volcanoes. Fecal samples will also be collected for genetic analysis to confirm the population size and for better understanding the genetic variability and health status of the population. Such monitoring is vitally important in understanding the long-term viability and measuring the effects of the recent history of conflict in the region on such a small population of critically endangered animals. Eugene Rutagarama, Director of census partner the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP), stated, “The Gorilla census is an exercise enabling us to assess the impact of conservation efforts carried out by all gorilla conservation stakeholders. We are hoping that the census will confirm a continuous increase of the mountain gorilla population and guide us on how we can further contribute to the growth of this still endangered population.”

Launching on March 1st, the census will involve 80 team members. Team members, which will be drawn from the staff of the various protected area (National Park) authorities and their partners, will traverse the entire Virunga gorilla habitat range over a period of approximately eight weeks.

The census is being carried out by the Rwanda Development Board/ Tourism and Conservation, the Congolese Wildlife Authority and the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The exercise will be supported by the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) through the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (a coalition of AWF, WWF and FFI). Other supporters include the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Results will be vital in looking at population trends and determining the best collaborative way forward for mountain gorilla conservation.

For more information about the census, contact Elizabeth Miranda at [email protected].

Volcano Eruption Update

Lava flows from the erupting Nyamulagira volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo picked up speed on Monday. While this threatens some wildlife in The Virunga National Park, we must assure you readers that it will not affect the mountain gorillas.
Mt Nyamulagira
According to vulcanologists in Congo, the amount of lava flowing from the volcano as almost double what was observed on Saturday, Goma.  The lava trail has now grown to 4.6km long, and is approximately 15 metres wide.

Mt. Nyamulagira (also spelt Nyamulagira) is 3,058m (10,033ft) high and is one of the most active volcanoes in Africa. It has erupted more than 35 times since 1882, the most recent being in 2006.

Kabirizi silverback is a dad again

Having met the Kabirizi family twice I feel as if they are my family so you can imagine my joy when I saw that Kabirizi has another child. that means that Miza, the orphaned baby gorilla we wrote about in “Looking for Miza” about has another sibling!

Look at this beauty!

Kabirizi baby gorilla

Thank you Innocent for bringing us this wonderful news. I know that things are still very difficult in eastern DR Congo but the gorillas look quite peaceful thanks to our former CEO Emmanuel de Merode who is now the Virunga National Park warden and his team of dedicated rangers on the ground.



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

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/bhUuF15HfJ0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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  

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.

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

Read the ICCN press release here

Year of the Gorilla Project – Fuel-efficient stoves to save Mountain Gorillas

Mountain Gorilla mother with infant, photo by Ian RedmondToday, I would like to feature another Year of the Gorilla project, this time for Mountain Gorillas. The project is a low-cost high-impact project benefiting the gorillas and their habitat as well as the local human population. The Gorilla Organisation runs it, and you will hear from them on this blog soon.

Fuel-efficient Stoves to reduce Firewood Harvesting in Mountain Gorilla Habitat

Trespassing into the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) national parks to collect firewood and charcoal is destroying the forests and threatening the survival of the gorillas that inhabit them. The use of fuel-efficient stoves reduces firewood consumption by up to 70%, reducing the demand for fuel and therefore decreasing the local communities’ reliance on the forest resources. These stoves not only benefit the environment, but also reduce the cost of fuel, as less is required and produce less smoke than traditional stoves, improving the health of those within the household. 

Objectives: The overall objective of the project is to reduce reliance on the resources of the Virunga National Park through the production and distribution of fuel-efficient stoves in North Kivu Province, DRC. The specific objectives are:
– To produce and distribute a minimum of 1,000 fuel-efficient stoves.
– To improve health by reducing the volume of harmful smoke produced by stoves.
– To increase community awareness of the consequences of deforestation and the need to conserve DRC’s forests.

 Activities: The project began in January 2008 and is already having a very positive impact on the communities living around the Virunga National Park. A workshop where stoves will be produced has been installed on the main Goma – Bukavu road where communities lack electricity and therefore rely solely on charcoal and firewood, and by the end of the year 500 stoves will have been produced. These are being sold for $3 each, helping to generate a small profit, which is being reinvested in the project. Regular workshops are held to sensitise both the communities and the local authorities on the importance of using fuel-efficient stoves and the need for forest conservation. During 2009 the project is set to produce a further 500 – 1,000 stoves and will continue all sensitisation activities.

2009 Budget : $ 21,258 (£ 12,503)
This includes staff, office and travel expenses as well as the costs for tools, materials and workshops.

This is a sustainability project par excellence and benefits all sides: the gorillas and other animals of the forest, the forest itself and the local population. Speak of a win-win…Please donate for this great project!!

The Year of the Gorilla 2009

Dear Friends,

This Gorilla Protection Blog is a collaboration between WildilfeDirect, the Gorilla Organisation, WCS, the GTZ (German Development), GRASP, CMS, WAZA, PASA and Born Free Foundation, as well as other organizations involved in gorilla conservation. The goal uniting these various organisations is to raise as many funds as possible for a selection of important gorilla field-conservation projects.

Gorillas and the forests they live in are under pressure from all sides. Most of the threats are manmade – hunting, habitat loss, mining and war – and some are natural – such as diseases like Ebola. A combination of these threats, if left unmitigated, is a recipe for extinction and will lead to the disappearance of any viable gorilla populations from the wild within only a few decades – less than a gorilla lifetime.

Time is not on our side. This is why the UNEP Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), the UNEP/UNESCO Great Ape Survival Partnership (GRASP) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) have jointly declared 2009 the Year of the Gorilla. This global campaign raises awareness and educates the public about gorillas and their threatened status, while at the same time raising funds for tangible on-the-ground conservation work. The projects featured here with the kind support of Wildlife Direct have been approved by experts and are of high conservation value. By donating, you can help us ensure that our grandchildren still have the chance to see these awe-inspiring beings in the wild.

The Year of the Gorilla 2009 also supports the decision by the gorilla range states to give the gorillas better protection through a legally binding agreement concluded under CMS. What is needed now is swift and effective implementation of this promising new instrument, and the Year of the Gorilla is a first big step in this direction.

Please go to www.yog2009.org to find out more. And don’t forget to tell a friend!!

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!

Mountain gorilla population in Virunga has increased by 12 percent

We are all celebrating at WidlifeDirect with the good news  that the mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park have not been affected by the conflict there. In fact the population has increased by 10 new babies between August 2007 and January 2009. Five of them probaby fathered by this guy,

Kabirizi mountain gorilla virunga

Kabirizi, the head of the Kabirizi family which now numers 33 individuals.

Here is the official press release from Virunga National Park.

26 January 2009


DR Congo’s habituated Mountain Gorilla population in Virunga National Park increased by 12.5 percent from 72 to 81 gorillas between August 2007 and January 2009, according to the results of an 8-week census conducted by the Congolese Wildlife Authority (ICCN) released today. Based on a previous 2003 census, Park Rangers also estimate 120 non-habituated Mountain Gorillas in the 250 sq km Mikeno Sector of the park, the only area in DR Congo that is home to Mountain Gorillas, bringing the country’s Mountain Gorilla population total to circa 211. The worldwide population of Mountain Gorillas is believed to be 720, all of them living in the conflict-affected area between DR Congo, Uganda and Rwanda.

“The status of Virunga’s Mountain Gorillas is a triumph for conservation, and is the product of 15 years’ effort and sacrifice on the part of Congo’s Rangers, of the consistent support from international organisations and individuals, and of the sustained determination of 3 African nations to protect this globally important species,” said Virunga National Park Director Emmanuel de Merode.

Over 50 Park Rangers conducted over 128 patrols during the census, and identified 6 gorilla families in Mikeno and 3 solitary
Silverbacks. The largest family is the Kabirizi Family, with 33 individuals including 5 newborns. The Rugendo family – victim of the July 2007 massacre – now has 9 members, up from 5, including 2 Silverbacks vying for control of the group.

“Mountain Gorilla family structures change with each birth, death, interaction and migration. The Kabirizi family, our largest gorilla group with 33 individuals, has 5 newborns which is wonderful news. But we are still hoping to locate the 2 gorillas from this same family that we have not yet seen,” said ICCN Gorilla Monitoring Head Innocent Mburanumwe.

During the 16-month period from August 2007 to late January 2009 10 baby gorillas were born into 4 of the habituated families – the Kabirizi, Mapuwa, Lulengo and Mapuwa families – and 2 adult female gorillas previously non-identified (from non-habituated groups) have joined habituated gorilla families. Three gorillas that had been previously identified in the August 2007 census have not been found and are listed as missing.

Significantly no evidence of gorilla mortality was reported by Rangers, although 536 snares laid by poachers were found and removed by Park Rangers, representing a significant increase as compared to previous findings. Snares are laid to catch small antelope and other forest animals, but gorillas, especially infants, are sometimes caught in the snare and can suffer loss of limb or life.

Gorilla in Virunga

Go to www.gorilla.cd for more information and to www.gorilla.cd/press to access the Mountain Gorilla Survey Report