Tag Archives: silverback

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.

Mwasanyinya

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.

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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!

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

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