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Bwenge's group update
Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The gorillas of Bwenge’s group are still under the leadership of Maggie, but Fossey Fund staff does not expect this atypical situation to continue for long. On Oct. 3, the group ran into Titus group, which also lost a dominant silverback, Rano, in July, but there were no transfers. On Oct. 12, a lone silverback approached the group led by Maggie, which led to stress and increased traveling by the group. During that time, a six-year-old male, Ntaribi, was left behind and trackers lost his trail, as is easy to do with a gorilla traveling alone, on Oct. 17. An additional tracking team is now looking for him.

Bwenge group after his deathSince then, Maggie has taken her group a considerable distance from the site of the interaction with Titus group, likely to limit potentially dangerous situations. Our trackers have noted that she has formed a close bond with sub-adult female Akaramata. This gorilla had a special relationship with Bwenge after he adopted her into his group and seems to consider Maggie a leader. We are uncertain how much longer Maggie will remain in leadership, but we hold high regards for this female and her admirable determination to lead Bwenge’s group.

During times like this, we are reminded of the importance of our trackers presence in the field 365 days a year. Our trackers are vital for monitoring unusual situations like this and for providing continual protection of gorilla groups and individuals—like Ntaribi.

If you'd like to learn morea bout how to help support our trackers, click here:




Help protect endangered orangutans this Halloween!
Thursday, October 16, 2014

While we specialize in the protection and study of gorillas here at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, we care about protecting all primates — including endangered orangutans. This Halloween, you can help protect them too, by choosing candy made by companies that participate in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

The population of orangutans has been in severe decline during recent decades, with estimates of about 5,000 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild and about 45,000 Bornean orangutans. The main threat to their survival is deforestation due to agriculture. According to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, every year millions of acres of rainforest in Borneo and Sumatra are cut down and the main crop that is planted is oil palm. Palm oil is an important crop but can be produced responsibly, without cutting down forests on sustainable plantations and without burning the land for clearing (during which orangutans may perish).

Orangutans at Zoo AtlantaPalm oil production has reached new highs due to increased supply and demand for cookies, crackers, cosmetics and — you guessed it — candy.  And unfortunately palm oil production may become a problem for African species such as gorillas in the future.

Luckily, many companies have begun developing sustainable palm oil production methods. These companies make a commitment to produce palm oil in a way that minimizes its effect on orangutans, other wildlife, indigenous people and our planet.

For a list of orangutan-friendly choices, download the Palm Oil Shopping Guide app and see which companies are members of the RSPO.  Or, read here for more information: cmzoo.org/palmoil


Bwenge's group feeding calmly
Thursday, October 02, 2014

The day after silverback Bwenge’s sudden death, his group still seems calm, with elder female Maggie leading them. However, they are ranging just a few hundred meters from Titus’ group and are aware this other group is near. Fossey Fund trackers will be observing closely to see what happens next.

Official results on the necropsy of Bwenge’s body have not been released yet, though significant injuries were seen, a result of the interactions he had with a lone silverback recently.

In other gorilla group news, Fossey Fund trackers located today two groups that had been difficult to monitor in recent months due to their ranging in areas of the park over the Rwanda border in Congo - Mafunzo’s group and Gushimira’s group. This leaves only one group – Kuryama’s – out of our range for the time being.


Leading silverback Bwenge found dead today
Wednesday, October 01, 2014

We are incredibly saddened to report that 24-year-old dominant silverback Bwenge­ a favorite gorilla among trackers and scientists was found dead this morning by Fossey Fund trackers.

On Sept. 20 and 24, Bwenge had interactions with lone-silverback Turatsinze that left him wounded. Bwenge appeared to be healing, but a necropsy will help us better understand this unexpected death and learn if it was related to the recent interactions.

Silverback BwengeBwenge, born on March 22, 1990, was the son of legendary silverback Titus (former leader of Beetsme's group) and Ginseng. Bwenge grew up in Beetsme’s group for the first 16 years of his life. He split from his native group to form his own on Jan. 3, 2007. By doing so, Bwenge became the first of a new generation of males to break with the three long-established leaders: Titus, Cantsbee, and Shinda.

Bwenge was followed by two females, and that was the beginning of his successful story as dominant silverback. The group grew in size rapidly, and after just three weeks females from Pablo group joined him. Among those was the elder Maggie, 34, who remained loyal to Bwenge’s group to this day.

For many years the group had a calm routine. Bwenge demonstrated excellent paternal skills especially when he took care of two infants (now subadults), Ntaribi and Akaramata, who were orphaned at a young age after the deaths of their mothers. With them, Bwenge formed the strongest bond among all his loyal group members.

Bwenge’s was  a single-silverback group living in the Virungas. It is always uncertain how a group will cope with the loss of a such a leader, and since Bwenge was the single male leader of his group, the Fossey Fund will be closely monitoring how they adapt. Latest updates from the field immediately afterward indicated the group is moving calmly in the other direction under Maggie’s lead.

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