Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Blog

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Blog RSS Feed
Good news: Esnared infant doing well; dispersed gorillas seen
Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The young gorilla who was freed from a snare last week is doing very well, and his group has returned to normal activities. This was the first snare incident among the gorilla groups that we monitor since April 2014.

Three female gorillasOur field staff is also delighted to report that they have spotted three adult female gorillas that we used to track but who left our monitored groups earlier this year. Faida, Bishushwe and Kanama are now ranging with a group of gorillas who are non-habituated (not used to the presence of human observers) and travel mainly in DR Congo, close to the Rwandan border.

Our Rwandan trackers are not able to cross the border into the Congo side of the park. But they were able to get close enough today to take photos of the three females, while the non-habituated gorillas ran away.

Young gorilla freed from snare
Friday, November 20, 2015

Yesterday in one of the groups the Fossey Fund monitors daily in Rwanda, our trackers found juvenile gorilla Itorero caught in a snare. The gorillas in the group had already cut the rope from the snare with their teeth, but the remainder of the rope was still tight around his wrist and needed to be removed. Every effort made by Itorero, who is 4 years old, to remove the rope from his wrist just ended up making it tighter, causing additional stress and potential injury.

An intervention with veterinarians from Gorilla Doctors was planned for today and was successfully carried out. Ten of the most-experienced Fossey Fund trackers were assigned to this intervention, including Jean Damascene Hategekimana, known as "Fundi", who is approaching his 23rd year as a tracker with the Fossey Fund. Their critical role was to keep the dominant silverback, Musilikale, and other group members away from the veterinary team during the intervention. While this role is always challenging, it was particularly so today, because Musilikale is one of the more aggressive silverbacks we monitor.

Itorero with snare rope on wristThe group was ranging very far away, and the team reached them around 11 a.m. Silverback Musilikale was indeed very aggressive and repeatedly charged and screamed at our trackers, as the veterinarians waited for an opportunity to safely sedate Itorero. Once Itorero was asleep, it took only a few minutes to remove the snare. As he awoke, Musilikale carried him back to the group. When our staff left, Itorero was safely reunited with his mother and other group members.

"Everyone was a real hero here," said Veronica Vecellio, Fossey Fund gorilla program manager. This was the first gorilla among our monitored groups to be caught in a snare since April 2014.

Update on Ntambara's group disruption
Thursday, November 19, 2015

Last week, a lone silverback interacted with one of the groups monitored regularly by Fossey Fund staff (called Ntambara's group). This resulted in the group breaking up into several subgroups, and the unfortunate deaths of two infants. The resulting events are still ongoing, and our staff has divided up into multiple teams of the most-experienced trackers to monitor each gorilla, and to search for those who become dispersed. (For full details on the intial events, click here for a news story posted yesterday).

Nahimana subgroupOne of the subgroups is being led by female Nahimana, with five other gorillas. Another female, whose infant died as a result of the incident, has joined a second lone silverback, along with two other females. It is interesting to note that both of the lone silverbacks involved in these events came from a group that is monitored by the Rwandan national park authorities for tourist visits, called Amahoro's group. The first, named Mizero, was involved in the initial incident last week, with the second, named Himbara, arriving later.

Ntambara's group had already had a very stressful year, after two leading silverbacks (Ntambara and then Ugutsinda) died after undiagnosed illnesses (although Ntambara's body was never found, despite intense searching after his disappearance in February). Left in charge of the group was young silverback Twibuke, who is now in a tiny subgroup consisting of just one other gorilla, young male Inkumbuza.


Silverback Cantsbee: Still going strong at 37
Friday, November 13, 2015

On Nov. 14, dominant silverback Cantsbee turns 37 years old, continuing to lead his group and set new records. He is now past the statistical life expectancy for mountain gorillas, and is the only silverback monitored since birth to have reached this age. He is also one of the last few gorillas we monitor from the generation of gorillas observed by Dian Fossey. Fossey actually thought his mother was a male, until she gave birth. At that point, Fossey exclaimed "It can't be," and then coined the name "Cantsbee" for the newborn.

Cantsbee in 2015In other milestones, Cantsbee still leads the largest group of mountain gorillas ever recorded (currently at 33 members but once reaching a high of 65 members, before a group split), and holds the record for the longest consistent group leadership.

At his current age, Fossey Fund staff keep expecting that things will change, and that his son, Gicurasi, will try to take over. But despite a few attempts, Cantsbee continues to show his dominance. And, says Veronica Vecellio, gorilla program manager, he is also still the "coolest, most confident silverback we know. He belongs to the historic group of silverbacks, like Titus and Shinda — scared of nothing, relaxed, never nervous. The females love that!"

And so do our trackers and researchers!  "I feel comfortable to stand near Cantsbee, because I feel protected. Even aggressive gorillas can't touch me when he is around," says data technician Michel Niyitegeka, who observes and collects information in this group every day.

"Cantsbee is very peaceful and gentle toward people and gorillas, so it is good to work with him," adds data technician Emmanuel Nzabonimpa. "Even if you surprisingly meet him while tracking, he doesn't charge. He is clever too."

Despite his age, everyone agrees that Cantsbee still looks good too. "I like how he stays respected by other gorillas, even if he is old," says data technician Jean Bosco Ntirenganya.

So, as Cantsbee reaches another milestone in his long, successful life, we wish him many more years of leadership. We know it won't be easy to find such a remarkable leader again.


Fossey Fund donors gather at annual luncheon
Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Dian Fossey Circle Luncheon, held each year in New York City, is a special way that long-time major donors to the Fossey Fund are thanked for their commitment to saving gorillas. The event, which is headlined by honorary chair Sigourney Weaver, features reports from our senior staff and field scientists, as well as a panel discussion and question-and-answer session. Attendees learn about the latest happenings among the gorillas in the field and about all of our activities to protect, monitor and study them.

Weaver with staffThis year, our gorilla program manager in Rwanda, Veronica Vecellio, gave an inside look at the gorilla groups we monitor from our Karisoke Research Center, as we approach the 50-year mark of our work there. Then, Dr. Damien Caillaud described our efforts to replicate this success in nearby Democratic Republic of Congo, where a different type of gorilla (called Grauer’s gorillas) are facing a rapid decline due to decades of threats to their survival and almost no protection until now.

The Dian Fossey Circle includes donors who make an annual gift of $1,000 or more. In addition to the luncheon, Circle Members receive three online adoptions, invitations to live field updates, and other benefits. Some of the attendees at this year’s luncheon have given for more than 20 years. Indeed, Sigourney Weaver has supported the Fossey Fund ever since she portrayed Dian Fossey in the movie “Gorillas in the Mist,” which was released in 1988, after she spent time with the mountain gorillas in Rwanda.

This year’s Dian Fossey Circle luncheon was held on Nov. 2, at the Yale Club of New York City. To learn more about the Dian Fossey Circle and other membership options, click here.


Help protect orangutans this Halloween and beyond
Monday, October 19, 2015

Palm oil, which is used in many products, from foods to cosmetics, is harvested heavily in areas that are home to endangered orangutans, in Indonesia and Malaysia. This has resulted in the destruction of their critical rainforest habitats, putting extreme pressure on the survival of their populations.

Orangutans at Zoo AtlantaThis Halloween is a good opportunity for everyone to help, by looking for candies and other products that use sustainable palm oil sources and show the logos of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) or Orangutan Friendly Palm Oil. The Fossey Fund's host, Zoo Atlanta, is a member of the RSPO and provides more information on their website.

To make it even easier, there's now an app for this on both Apple and Android platforms.

For a more detailed look at palm oil and its impact, visit the palm oil page created by the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.


Silverback Ugutsinda dies following health issues
Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Fossey Fund is saddened to report that dominant silverback Ugutsinda was found dead this morning by our trackers, on what would have been his 25th birthday. We have been monitoring him for an undiagnosed illness since February. He managed to keep up his normal activities for the most part, but he was losing weight and looked to be in poor health. Periodically he was not seen with his group, but then continued to return and resume his dominance.

Ugutsinda in early OctoberUgutsinda's group formed in 2008 and was originally led by his brother, Ntambara, who disappeared in February, also following an undiagnosed illness. He is presumed to have died, although the body was not found. Luckily, the group still has silverback Twibuke, who has been leading the group at times when Ugutsinda was unable to.

Ugutsinda was born in a group originally monitored by Dian Fossey, called Group 5. His father was the well-known silverback Pablo. His brother, silverback Wageni, also died this year, but there are still two sisters living, in different groups.

Ugutsinda's body is currently being recovered for necropsy, which will be conducted by Gorilla Doctors. We will post a full story once that information is available.

Mountain gorilla census: Update from our field staff
Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The mountain gorilla census is underway in the field, and Fossey Fund staffers who are participating are highly motivated and excited about the event. They even found some fresh gorilla nests on their first day. This first phase of the census includes six teams that camp in the forest, each with two cooks as well. After breakfast at 6 a.m., trackers start out on recces (predetermined paths) at 7. When they find signs of gorillas, they then leave the recce and follow the gorilla trail until they find the three freshest nest sites.

Fossey Fund census staffers

While everyone is looking for signs of gorillas, each has other jobs too, such as cutting through dense vegetation with a machete, entering data, drawing control points on a map and monitoring their progress. It's tiring work and everyone is grateful for the delicious food made by the cooks, especially on very cold mornings and evenings, says Dr. Winnie Eckardt, the Fossey Fund's research manager at Karisoke, who is working with the teams.

P.S. You can directly help raise money to protect gorillas by voting for us in the European Outdoor Conservation Association's grant contest. Click here or on the EOCA box to the left.

New! Receive quarterly gorilla adopt updates

Adopt a Gorilla Today!

We depend on you to help us save gorillas. Please adopt a gorilla today!

Adopt Today

Become a member

Ensure that our patrols are in the forest EVERY DAY to protect gorillas.

Sigourney Weaver, Honorary Chair

Give to Save Gorillas

Your monthly contribution supports gorilla conservation and protection programs for BOTH Grauer's gorillas and mountain gorillas.

© 2015 Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Follow Us @