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Interesting developments with “remnants” of Bwenge’s group
Wednesday, October 29, 2014

As Fossey Fund trackers and scientists observe closely the remaining members of Bwenge’s group (since leading silverback Bwenge died on Oct. 1), the situation of the group continues to change. Even as elder female Maggie continues to lead the group (in itself a remarkable occurrence), gorillas from other groups and a lone silverback have now been observed mixing with the group or with certain members.

After facing a lone silverback on Oct. 12 and disappearing until Oct. 16, a separate team of Fossey Fund trackers has been following 6-year-old subadult male Ntaribi. The young gorilla’s tracks were spotted near Bwenge’s group, and he appeared to be on their trail. Yesterday, trackers were pleased to announce he had rejoined the group!

Ntaribi’s return to Maggie and the rest of Bwenge’s group was a relief for Fossey Fund staff because the subadult gorilla was too young to be travelling alone. He had been covering large distances by himself and appeared stressed when trackers first saw him on Oct. 16.

Yesterday, trackers also reported that female Faida, 14 years old, from Bwenge’s group, had transferred after interacting with a well-known lone silverback, Inshuti. Faida was followed by her 3-1/2-year-old  infant Susuruka.

Wageni in Bwenge's group todayToday our trackers reported a whole new set of circumstances, some of them surprising and not yet fully understood. Most interesting was the appearance of silverback Wageni (who normally lives in Ugenda’s group), showing up in the remnants of Bwenge’s group. The group was calm in the morning but by afternoon there was some aggression by Wageni toward Maggie. Maggie, with support from the youngsters, held her own.  In addition, infant Susuruka was back in the group, while her mother, Faida, was seen separately with silverback Inshuti.

The trails of the groups since yesterday give us some clues as to what may have happened, showing that Maggie with Bwenge’s group intersected with Faida (who still had Susuruka with her) and Inshuti.  They then probably got near Ugenda group, which is when they were joined by silverback Wageni.

Fossey staff are hoping for a good, stable situation for all of these gorillas but stay tuned, because more changes can always happen.

Fossey Circle luncheon a success in New York
Monday, October 27, 2014

At the annual Dian Fossey Circle luncheon Oct. 13 in New York City, the long career of Clare Richardson as Fossey Fund president and CEO was celebrated, along with presentations by other Fossey leaders, field staff and scientists. Honorary Chair Sigourney Weaver presided over the luncheon, which is a benefit for members and sponsors at the Dian Fossey Circle membership level and above.

Sigourney Weaver spoke about her memories with Maggie, a gorilla who has been prominent in Fossey Fund news lately, for leading Bwenge’s group after the silverback’s unexpected death Oct. 1. Weaver described Maggie’s interesting behaviors while she was in Rwanda filming Gorillas in the Mist.

Dr. Tara Stoinski at Fossey Circle luncheon“It’s great to reconnect with Sigourney and to hear her stories about Maggie,” said new Fossey Fund President and CEO Tara Stoinski, Ph.D. “I think it speaks to the uniqueness and longevity of our organization that we can share stories from the past about individual gorillas and add new ones today.”

The luncheon, which has historically been held at the prestigious Yale Club, included about 120 guests. Dr. Stoinski and board vice chair Joanne Truffelman, led the commemoration of Richardson’s 19 years with the Fossey Fund,  including a video and presentation of special gifts, such as a painting by Zoo Atlanta gorilla Willie B., Jr.

The presentations by staff included updates on the Karisoke gorillas by Gorilla Program Coordinator Veronica Vecellio and Felix Ndagijimana, who leads the Fossey Fund's Rwanda programs, as well as information on the Fossey Fund’s work with Grauer’s gorillas in Congo, presented by Fossey Fund scientist Damien Caillaud, DVM, Ph.D. These were followed by a lively question-and-answer session and a statement from Sigourney Weaver thanking guests for joining her in the quest to save gorillas.

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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.

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