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Fruit is a seasonal treat for mountain gorillas
Friday, February 05, 2016

Therre are not many fruiting trees in the Virunga volcanoes habitat where the mountain gorillas live, so they rarely get to eat such sweet "treats." One special treat is the berries of the Rubus bush, which are available seasonally. The Rubus bush, which produces fruit related to blackberries, grows abundantly at the the high altitude of the subalpine and alpine zones of the mountains.

Gorilla eating berriesDuring the fruiting season, gorillas move uphill on the mountain slopes, spending weeks in the dense and thorny Rubus bushes, feeding on several subalpine plants but heavily focused on looking for the beloved berries. And eating them is not easy either, requiring a special "technique" due to the thorny branches holding the berries.

In the past few weeks, many of the gorilla groups that the Fossey Fund monitors are in the subalpine zone, and so we are observing them feed on a lot of these berries! However, it's not easy to follow the gorillas inside the bushes and sometime we lose their trail, as they go into deep and steep ravines!

Submitted by Veronica Vecellio, Gorilla Program Manager, Karisoke Research Center. Photo by Winnie Eckardt, Ph.D., Research Manager at Karisoke.

 

What we know about mountain gorilla twins
Friday, January 22, 2016

Since we’ve announced the birth of Isaro’s twins earlier this week, we’ve received some great questions about twins among mountain gorillas. Because twins are so rare, we don’t yet have all the data needed to fully answer every question, but here is some interesting information that we have observed:

How often are twins born?

Of the more than 270 births that have occurred in the Karisoke gorilla groups over the last 50 years, only three have involved twins. The first set of twins we observed were born in 1986 and only survived nine days, and those born in 2008 died the day they were born as a result of infanticide. Among the groups the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) monitors, there have also been three sets of twins born and two sets that have survived.

Gorilla twins born this weekWhat is the chance of survival for twins?

We don’t have enough data to know if there is a statistically different rate of survival between twins and single-infant births. However, we do know that roughly 25% of single infants die during their first year of life and we would expect the rate for twins to be just as high if not higher. Luckily, Isaro is a successful mother who has previously raised two offspring, and so we have high hopes!

What are the challenges a gorilla mother faces?

Gorilla mothers are completely responsible for infant care at this stage and even despite the increased energetic demands of nursing twins, she will not allow other group members to hold or assist in any other way. As the infants age, other group members or the twins’ siblings might help carry them, but this likely will not happen until after they reach one year of age. One of Isaro’s biggest challenges in the next few weeks will be keeping up with the group, as mothers usually use their arms to support infants until they are strong enough to grasp on tightly by themselves. So, with twins,  Isaro may need to use both arms to make sure the infants are secure, which could make walking difficult. Another significant challenge will be the weather — with the long rainy season approaching, the damp conditions and cold temperatures might put the twins at risk.

 

Rare mountain gorilla twins born
Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Fossey Fund trackers were surprised and delighted when they reached Isabukuru's group Monday morning, one of the groups monitored daily by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda: Sixteen-year-old female Isaro was found holding two newborn infants! Since the infants were dry, we assumed they had been born during the night or evening prior. Mother Isaro looked well, though visibly tired!

Isaro with newborn twinsTwins are unusual among the mountain gorillas, and this is only the third case recorded among the groups monitored by the Fossey Fund (though none of those infants survived). There are several cases among groups monitored by Rwanda park authorities for tourist visits, including a pair born in 2004 who are still alive and well.

Mother Isaro also has a 6-year-old and a 3-1/2 year old in the group. This is the fourth group she has lived in and now counts 21 gorillas among its members, including the newborn twins.

 

Some fascinating facts about Dian Fossey, in honor of her birthday
Friday, January 15, 2016

Our founder, the legendary scientist Dr. Dian Fossey, would have turned 84 on Jan. 16 of this year. Although she was killed while trying to find ways to protect her beloved mountain gorillas, her work lives on in so many ways, especially through the daily monitoring and protection that the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund now provides daily. The mountain gorilla population has nearly doubled since her time, as a direct result of the work she started, and this is certainly her biggest legacy.

Dian Fossey with gorillaFossey was a fascinating individual in many ways, as well as a courageous and brilliant scientist. We collected a few interesting facts about her life and legacy and present those here, in honor of what would have been her 84th birthday.

 * Some 275 scientific studies based on work at Fossey's Karisoke Research Center have now been published in academic journals. Indeed, most of what is scientifically known about gorillas comes from work conducted at Karisoke or using the enormous Karisoke gorilla database.

* We still monitor two gorillas who were first seen, and named, by Dian Fossey. They are the dominant silverback Cantsbee (37 years old) and high-ranking female Poppy (38 years old). They are also the oldest gorillas we currently monitor.

* Dian Fossey is buried in Rwanda, in a gravesite next to her favorite gorilla Digit (who was killed by poachers) and other gorillas.

* While making the movie "Gorillas in the Mist," based on Fossey's book, actress Sigourney Weaver also fell in love with the gorillas. She has been honorary chair of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund ever since.

 

Our Amazon Wish List: Supplies for our field team
Monday, December 21, 2015

Here at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, we do our best to supply our gorilla trackers, researchers and everyone else on the field team with the equipment they need to do their jobs protecting, tracking and studying gorillas. But equipment can wear out quickly in the field and there are some extra items that may be in short supply or simply beyond our budget.

Trackers in the forests of RwandaTracking gorillas that range far away is a lot easier when one has good supplies, such as good tents, warm sleeping bags, and headlamps. Our trackers can also use rugged watches, binoculars, cameras and cases, and simple "luxuries" like water bottles, cold-weather gloves (it's cold in the Virunga mountains), and more. For our Congo trackers, we'd love to have two extra laptop computers for them, since four of our field team leaders there have never used a computer before. We'd like to be able to teach them how to do basic analyses of the information they collect in the forest, to write reports and to learn about emailing and web browsing.

All of these and more are shown on our Amazon Wish List -- even a few extra mousepads, hats and flash drives -- there's something for every budget.

Click here to shop on our Wish List!

Thank you, from everyone at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund!

Grauer's gorillas still on most-endangered primates list
Saturday, December 19, 2015

Grauer’s gorillas, a type of eastern gorilla that lives only in the Democratic Republic of Congo, are once again among the world's most-endangered primates, as determined by a group of international conservationists, led by scientists at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Although there is limited data available, their numbers are estimated to be between 2,000 and 10,000 individuals.

Grauer's gorillas in CongoGrauer's gorillas, which were formerly called "eastern lowland gorillas," live at a variety of altitudes, not only in lowland areas, though not as high up as the mountain gorillas. Due to years of political instability, agricultural expansion, mining, poor economic conditions and other factors, conservation in the area has become critical. In 2012 the Fossey Fund established a Grauer’s Gorilla Research and Conservation Program in Congo that enables us not only to assess the numbers and stability of the current population in the region, but also to study and protect them, which we are now doing on a daily basis.

The list of the world’s top 25 most-endangered primates for 2014-2016 now also includes another great ape – the Sumatran orangutan – which is facing severe decline due to extensive deforestation. In fact, more than half of the world’s primates, including apes, monkeys and lemurs are facing extinction, says the latest “Primates in Peril” report.

New maternity building completed with Fossey Fund support
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
The Fossey Fund has supported the Bisate village for more than 10 years, an area that is important because of its close proximity to Volcanoes National Park and mountain gorillas. Many Fossey Fund trackers and their families live in Bisate as well. For these reasons, the Fossey Fund began partnering with the Bisate Clinic in 2006 to improve work conditions, lead staff training and aid with infrastructure advancements. As part of our work with the clinic, Atlanta OB-GYN Mary Horder, M.D., traveled there extensively to help improve the health and quality of life of the people of Bisate. - See more at: https://gorillafund.org/news--events/new-maternity-ward-in-bisate-village#sthash.AacgD1sf.dpuf
The Fossey Fund has supported the Bisate village for more than 10 years, an area that is important because of its close proximity to Volcanoes National Park and mountain gorillas. Many Fossey Fund trackers and their families live in Bisate as well. For these reasons, the Fossey Fund began partnering with the Bisate Clinic in 2006 to improve work conditions, lead staff training and aid with infrastructure advancements. As part of our work with the clinic, Atlanta OB-GYN Mary Horder, M.D., traveled there extensively to help improve the health and quality of life of the people of Bisate. - See more at: https://gorillafund.org/news--events/new-maternity-ward-in-bisate-village#sthash.AacgD1sf.dpuf

The Fossey Fund works closely with the community of Bisate in Rwanda, an area that is important because of its close proximity to Volcanoes National Park and the mountain gorillas. Many Fossey Fund trackers and their families live in Bisate as well. Our community work includes helping the local health clinic, which serves more than 19,000 people. A crucial part of this assistance was provided by Atlanta obstetrician/gynecologist Mary Horder, M.D., who traveled there extensively to help with staff training and medical care.

When Dr. Horder passed away in 2014, the Horder family and the Fossey Fund joined together to construct a maternity ward, which was critically needed at the clinic in order to provide care for new mothers and infants in an area separate from sick patients. The ward is the first of its kind in this village and will provide both prenatal and postnatal health services.

New maternity clinicOn Dec. 10, a team composed of two Fossey Fund staff members, the local contractor and supervisor, the district health monitoring officer, and the head of the Bisate Clinic proceeded to provisional reception of the new maternity building, with construction work now completed. It is hoped that the facility will be ready to open early next year.

“The maternity facility will contribute enormously to saving the lives of mothers and children in need, by providing safe delivering space," says Mary Goretti Musabyimana, head of the clinic. "Nurses will be able to help more mothers at a time, and therefore the risks associated with long waiting times will significantly decrease. We anticipate the building itself will encourage pregnant mothers to join the whole antenatal care process.”

 

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