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Gorilla groups keeping trackers busy
Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Elderly female mountain gorilla Maggie, who has been traveling on her own for three weeks, has not been seen for several days now. The last time our trackers saw her, she was near the border of Congo. We have two tracker teams searching for Maggie, as well as help from Rwanda park authorities. Our gorilla protection and monitoring officer at Karisoke, Jean Paul Hirwa, has created a map showing the areas that have been searched and the Congo border.

Maggie and groupOur trackers are also finding many other challenging situations, including two groups that are traveling beyond our range (either in Congo or in inaccessible areas), groups that are sometimes split into two subgroups, interactions and transfers between groups, and groups beginning to go out of the park in search of bamboo shoots. Luckily, today they did reach Isabukuru's group, which is ranging very far away and requires an extremely long day for our trackers following them.

Gushimira's group travels back from Congo
Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The small group of mountain gorillas led by silverback Gushimira was formed in 2013 but has moved in and out of our monitoring range throughout much of its history. This happens when they cross the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where our Rwandan trackers cannot follow. The group stayed in Congo for much of 2014 but was spotted by our trackers back in Rwanda in January, with only three members (Gushimira, female Kanama and her infant).

Gorilla group GushimiraOn March 16, the group returned again to Rwanda so we have resumed our tracking of them. During an interaction with Ntambara’s group that same day, females Kunga and Kurinda transferred to Gushimira’s group. The interaction was not seen, but the group has been followed every day since March 19. Now, the group has three adult females — Kanama, Kunga and Kurinda — as well as the infant.

 

Silverback Ugutsinda improving
Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Fossey Fund gorilla trackers are happy to report that dominant silverback Ugutsinda, who leads Ntambara's group of mountain gorillas, is back in his group today after some days of being alone and appearing ill. In addition, his health appears to be improving.

Silverback Ugutsinda looking betterHowever, two females from the group are missing, and it may be that they have transferred to another group (Gushimira's) after an interaction. But this group has not been seen for several days, even with enhanced teams searching for them.

In addition, elderly female Maggie is still traveling alone. We have a special team following her and she appears to be fine, but having her alone for extended periods in the forest is not an ideal situation. She runs away from our trackers, so we follow her at a distance.

Two events in Musilikale's group
Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Rugira in Musilikale's groupThe last few days have marked two exciting events for Musilikale’s group: a transfer and a birth! On March 9, female Rugira from Kuryama’s group was seen with Musilikale. The transfer happened the day before during an interaction that occurred after the trackers left the group. The interaction site was found, though, and it showed signs of intense activity and multiple displays. Rugira, who will turn seven in April, appears to be fine in the new group, and she was observed playing with dominant female Mahane’s son, Itorero.

On March 10, Mahane—one of the remaining gorillas born while Dian Fossey was alive—gave birth. Mahane is daughter of the matriarch, Effie, and sister to two notable females: Poppy and Maggie. All three of Effie’s daughters are notably strong: Maggie, who has recently shown her independence skills; Poppy, who is the oldest known gorilla but recently transferred with a lone silverback; and Mahane, who is the dominant female of Musilikale’s group. This is the 30-year-old Mahane’s seventh infant. 

Musilikale’s group has grown quite a bit since it was first formed in 2013. At the time, the group included seven gorillas, but now is composed of 12 individuals (three silverbacks, one blackback, five females, one juvenile and two infants).

Missing silverback and elderly female seen
Monday, March 09, 2015

On Sunday, Fossey Fund trackers were able to see one of the silverbacks reported as missing in the blog on March 6. Silverback Ugutsina was seen about 500 meters from his group, which near the top of Mr. Visoke. Unfotunately he still appeared weak, and the environment in this area is a difficult one. The group appeared fine, with silverback Twibuke leading it.

In other interesting news, elderly female Maggie, who was not seen for several days, was also located during the weekend, after a large, collaborative patrol was sent on a special search fo her. However, she is traveling alone and was distressed by the presence of trackers. She was moving and feeding normally.

Equip Protection Patrols

The cold, wet climate and dense rainforest wears out the clothes and equipment of our patrols quickly.
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