Tag Archives: Mountain Gorillas

How to tell gorillas apart?

Hello, this is Emmanuel,

I recently went into the Virunga Mountains in northern Rwanda to see how our little mountain gorilla Iwacu and her family are doing. It took us about 2 hours until we found her and mother Turiho at a beautiful glade, collecting food.

As you can see from the picture below, little Iwacu, who is usually very lively, was not in a very playful mood that morning, as it is currently rainy season in Rwanda which mountain gorillas are not really keen of. Unfortunately, we could not detect any other family members, but I’m sure they are all well off and were just finding shelter from the rain somewhere.


Did you actually ever ask yourself how gorillas are distinguished and how we knew that the mountain gorillas we came across were Iwacu and her mom Turiho? Well, there are two distinct differences every gorilla has. The first one is their fingerprint. Just like humans every gorilla has a unique fingerprint, that tells their identity. However, since it is impossible to always take fingerprints of every gorilla we come across, we just tell them apart by the shape of their noses. Just like the fingerprint every gorilla has a uniquely shaped nose, which allows trackers to tell our beautiful cousins apart.

I hope you all like the picture I took of Iwacu, and I will keep you updated with more news on our lovely gorillas down here in Africa.

Video News from the Volcanoes National Park!

Hi, this is Tuver,

Screen shot 2013-10-24 at 16.31.47

Just recently, I travelled to the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda to track mountain gorillas located there. On my tour I came across the Umubano family, which consists of 14 members and is led by the awesome alpha silverback Charles. The name Umubano is Kinyarwandan, which translated means neighborliness, and is the name of the other silverback in the group. He used to be in charge before Charles took over.

As you guys can see from this video the group is doing fine, spending their days grooming one another or playing around. Young gorillas are usually more active than their older companions, and like to wrestle, tumble and climb trees. They also develop much faster than human infants and begin to bounce and play at about 8 weeks.

I hope you guys enjoy the video I took and as usual I will keep you updated with the latest news on our gorillas here in Africa.

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

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. 


Gorilla social networks

We have just learned that the Uganda Wildlife Authority plans to introduce online gorilla tracking as a new initiative aimed at the global demand for conservation tourism.

Gorilla facebook

For a minimum donation of $1, subscribers will be able track the movements of individual gorillas through a custom-made Web site. Strategically placed cameras in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest will stream video footage of gorillas to audiences worldwide.

The service – scheduled to begin this month – will also allow users to “befriend a gorilla” on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.

“The project aims to bring attention to the plight of gorillas,” said Lillian Nsubuga, a spokeswoman for the Uganda Wildlife Authority, “and any money raised will be put towards conservation efforts.”

For more on this story go here

Silverback Titus has died in Rwanda

Dear Friends

We are so sorry to be the bearers of bad and sad news- Titus, the star from Gorilla in the Mist has died.

 Titus Silverback gorilla rwanda

KIGALI: The world’s most famous mountain gorilla Titus, aka the Gorilla King, has died at the age of 35, the Rwandan national parks office said Tuesday.

‘He was born on August 24, 1974 and has been observed closely by researchers throughout his entire life. Tragically, he succumbed to old age on September 14,’ a statement said.

Rwanda’s oldest silverback was made famous notably by a BBC documentary broadcast in 2008 and called ‘Titus: the Gorilla King.’

YoG Ambassador Ian Redmond, who knew Titus since infancy, said: “The death of any individual who plays such an important role in his community is a sad occasion.  All who knew Titus will mourn his passing in their own way – whether gorilla or human.  For me it is like losing an old friend – he was the first gorilla I saw when beginning my work as Dian Fossey’s research assistant in 1976.   He was a playful two-year-old and I was a newly graduated biologist, so we both had a lot to learn.   But Titus’s death from natural causes at 35 is also a triumph for conservation – how wonderful that we humans have been able to leave him the space to flourish and become the most successful silverback on record, then grow old and die surrounded by his family.   The King is dead, yes, but long live the King – his son Kuryama.”

The highly-endangered mountain gorillas are found only on the slopes of the Virunga mountains on the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Fewer than 700 mountain gorillas are left, according to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.

Both Rwanda and Uganda have turned gorilla tracking into a major eco-tourism industry and a big foreign-currency earner.

Legendary American primatologist Dian Fossey, who until her brutal murder in 1985 lived in the Virunga, is credited with bringing the mountain gorilla’s plight to the world’s attention and most likely saving it from extinction.

Fossey’s isolated life in the mountains of Rwanda was immortalised in the 1988 Hollywood movie ‘Gorillas in the Mist.’— AFP

IGCP launches New Website in YoG

Unveiling a new era for communicating its work to practitioners and the public alike, the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) has set up an entirely new website, www.igcp.org, which will go “live” today, August 25th.

Mountain Gorilla silverback Titus and family. Picture by Ian Redmond.

Opening during the UN Convention on Migratory Species designated Year of the Gorilla, the new site promises greatly enhanced interactivity, a fresh new look and improved navigation. Visitors will now be able to read the IGCP’s gorilla blog on the site, as well as follow and comment on the ups and downs, challenges and successes, passions and commitments of its staff and partners in their work to save the world’s approximately 700 remaining Mountain Gorillas, which live on the misty slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes Range and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest areas bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. The site will also integrate a variety of Web 2.0 features such as Twitter, Facebook etc. Visit now!

“More visits and more followers will greatly enhance our work at IGCP,” stated jamie Kemsey of IGCP, “and we are ready for it. I am excited to start using this new tool, which will help us keep current and keep progressing in the ever dynamic world of mountain gorilla conservation.”

For more information, contact Jamie Kemsey at [email protected]

Women in Goma take up production of fuel-efficient stoves

Fuel efficient stoves in the makingFuel efficient stoves in the makingPosted on behalf of Tuver Wundi of the Gorilla Organisation 

Hi, this is Tuver, Communications Manager of the Gorilla Organization.

Since the new technology for the production of fuel-efficient stoves has been popularised in the region, there is now a collective of local women producing and further popularising fuel-efficient stoves to fight against the excessive use of charcoal.

Women in Goma are now getting together to raise awareness of the fuel-efficient stoves made from clay in the city and its surroundings, and to themselves make clay dishes, one of the constituent elements of the stoves known as “Jiko Kenya” stoves, as pictured.

This practice is stressed following the popularisation of this technique by Aide Kivu, as supported by The Gorilla Organization in 2008. Although they need further funds to produce more, Aide Kivu is pleased that other partners in conservation have followed up the initiative and assisted some more mothers in Goma with the production of improved stoves.

The aim of Deocard Kalusi, Executive Secretary of Aide Kivu, is to see his organisation meet the growing needs for fuel-efficient stoves, which are now the main focus of his activities.

Please help us meet this need!

ICCN wildlife officers jailed for gorilla habitat crimes

Four senior wildlife officers who had been arrested for the July 2007 killings of 5 mountain gorillas have been found guilty of a lesser charge o f destruction of flora and fauna.

Gorilla killings Virunga

There was insufficient evidence to link them to the killings of the gorillas and they were each fined US $ 5,000 and sentenced for 6 months imprisonment for the illegal charcoal trade which is said to have earned each of them up to $15,000 per month. The officers have been suspended from the ICCN.

Honore Mashagiro

The alleged mastermind of the gorilla killings Honore Mashagiro, is on trial. He is the former Director of the Virunga National Park and is accused of involvement in the illegal charcoal mafia and killings of the gorillas in July 2007.

This is the first time that the ICCN has prosecuted it’s own officers and represents a significant achievement towards zero tolerance of illegal activities by the wildlife officers.

Emmanuel de Merode, former CEO of WildlifeDirect, is the current Director of the Virunga Park. All of us at WildlifeDirect applaud Emmanuel and his team for this achievement, and look forward to continued successes in protecting the mountain gorillas.

Congratulations to Virunga rangers for winning award

Last year, after meeting the wonderful Nancy Abrahams, we were invite to recommend candidates for the Abrahams Foundation conservation awards. The Alexander Abraham Foundation based in the United States, recognizes people in defence of the natural resources of the DRC, in particular the natural parks which contain many rare and endangered species. It was a no brainer fur us, we nominated the men who had put their necks on the line and risked everything to save Virunga National Parks endangered mountain gorillas at a time when nobody else dared.

We nominated Paulin, who risked his life by exposing the link between the illegal charcoal trade, corruption and the gorilla killings. Paulin ultimately paid the price with his position in Virunga and now works in Salonga National Park.

Innocent and Diddy

We also nominated Innocent and Diddy, two rangers who represent so many other dedicated rangers, were also nominatd. Their diarise on WidlifeDirect  raised global awareness about the unfolding situation. Ending up on the BBC and appearing in numerous publications including the book Looking for Miza, Innocent and Diddy have come to symbolise the hope that we can all believe in.

Looking for Miza

Innocent and Diddy are the hero’s of this true story

Despite the fame, they have retained their personal dedication and continue to conserve wildlife in the Virunga National Park.  We congratulate Innocent, Diddy and Paulin for recognition well deserved.

It was such a big event that even Alan Doss of MONUC attended and made a speech.  He said that these people should be considered “heroes,” considering the various threats and daily violence they face to protect the parks and the territories of the country.

He compared their work to that of the United Nations Blue Helmets in the DRC “who give their all to protect thousands of civilians against acts of violence in the northeast of the country.”

Everyone at WildlifeDirect is very proud that our nominations were considered and that these three wonderful men and two others have received the reconition that they deserve.  We congratulate the team at ICCN in Virunga for these awards.