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Two largest mountain gorillas groups in ongoing interactions
Friday, November 21, 2014

Fossey Fund trackers are continuing to observe interactions between the two largest mountain gorilla groups monitored in the Virungas – Pablo group and Susa group. Pablo group has been monitored by the Fossey Fund for decades, while Susa group is tracked by the Rwanda Development Board, since it is one of the groups designated for tourism visits.

The two groups have a history of interacting but these have gotten particularly frequent recently. This week we noted four interactions between the groups, and recorded the transfer of four females from Pablo to Susa.

Pablo and Susa group interactThis morning, our trackers saw the remnants of an interaction earlier in the day, and then observed an additional interaction, but both seemed to be peaceful.  During this time, Pablo group was “sub-grouped” – half of the members were with silverback Cantsbee and the other half were with silverbacks Gicurasi and Kureba. The latter subgroup is the one that was involved in the interaction, with blackbacks (young  males) from it and from Susa group playing together. This latest interaction lasted about one hour and no transfers were seen. Afterwards, the two subgroups of Pablo reunited.

Reports from the field by Jean Paul Hirwa, gorilla monitoring and protection officer, Karisoke Research Center

Gorilla group news-roundup from Karisoke
Monday, November 17, 2014

So many events occurred among the mountain gorilla groups monitored by the Fossey Fund in the past few days, including some interactions with other groups of gorillas that are monitored by the Rwanda Development Board.

Unfortunately, the 3-1/2-year-old Susuruka, who was not doing well and was visited by veterinarians twice last week, was found dead by our trackers on Saturday. A necropsy is being performed by Gorilla Doctors, to determine the causes of death, but she had been suffering from traumatic changes in her group and the transfer of her mother (Faida) out of the group. (See video here showing another youngster, Akaramata, helping Susuruka on one of her last days. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9s7WozjkQsE&feature=youtu.be)

Gushimira resting with new female FaidaThen, this morning, Faida was found to have transferred yet again, leaving silverback Inshuti and joining Gushimira’s group (which had not been seen since Oct. 11)! Inshuti was seen 200 meters away with wounds on his arms and making hooting vocalizations.

This news was balanced by the arrival of a newborn in a different group (Ntambara’s), to mother Kurinda. This birth was especially exciting since our data technician Antoine actually witnessed the delivery!

Also interesting was an interaction between two big groups – Pablo’s group, which is led by silverback Cantsbee and monitored by the Fossey Fund, and Susa’s group, which is monitored by the Rwanda Development Board for tourism visitation. These interactions have occurred before and usually result in some transfers. This time it seems that three gorillas transferred from Pablo to Susa, although not all group members were seen at the time. Stay tuned for more details on the Pablo-Susa situation!

How to interact directly with our field staff
Monday, November 17, 2014

If you attended the Fossey Fund's latest Live Update on Nov. 13  with Director of the Karisoke Research Center Felix Ndagijimana and Gorilla Program Coordinator Veronica Vecellio, you know the latest updates about Maggie and Bwenge’s group, gorillas going out of the park for bamboo shoots, and the new Biaste Learning Center.

Live from the field on the computerAs a new staff member at the Fossey Fund, I found the entire experience to be really cool and gratifying. I got to hear people I’m in constant contact with—but have never seen—talk about the latest updates with the various gorilla groups and community developments. While we do our best to keep all of our supporters updated via Facebook, Twitter, enews and (of course) our blog, I think the experience of hearing the latest information directly from our field staff (in this case Veronica and Felix) is unbeatable. It is a rare opportunity to connect with the field staff who directly interact with the gorillas we monitor and protect, and it is unique to the Fossey Fund. 

Part of a benefit of being a member of the Fossey Fund is having access to Live Updates with our field staff in Africa. At the Custodian Level membership and above, you have access to view the recordings of past updates, and at the Guardian Level you can actually watch live and participate in them. That means not only can you hear staff talk about what's going on with the Karisoke gorillas or in our Congo programs, but you can also ask questions!

If you’re like me and want to be able to learn and ask questions about gorillas like the remarkable Maggie leading Bwenge’s group or about the progress of the Bisate Learning Center and other projects, I encourage you to become a member before the next Live Update in February!

Submitted by Mackenzie Bruce, communications coordinator

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Sigourney Weaver, Honorary Chair

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