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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.

The moves and transfers of an unusual female gorilla
Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Twenty-nine-year-old Nzeli is one of the mountain gorillas monitored regularly by the Fossey Fund trackers, but unlike other gorillas, she is not always where we expect to find her! On Aug. 16, after spending two weeks by herself (which is quite unusual), she then transferred from Bwenge’s group to Isabukuru’s group, two of the groups we follow daily. Then, on Sept. 8, she gave birth but the infant did not survive the day. (Cause of death is unknown.)

Nzeli leads an unusual lifeNzeli has always surprised our trackers with atypical behaviors, moving in and out of groups, or  joining a solitary male or other group for just a few days.  Her last move did not have a clear immediate or social advantage, as she left a stable group while in the late stages of pregnancy.

Nzeli was born in Susa group in 1985, transferred to Pablo group in 1995, and then to Bwenge group in 2007. During her time in Bwenge group, she left and rejoined the group four times, but just for short periods.  But in July,  Bwenge’s group faced a challenging series of interactions with another group and with solitary males, and that’s when Nzeli left.  While expecting her to rejoin Bwenge, we were instead surprised to see her moving into Isabukuru’s group. She quickly integrated there and formed a strong bond with female Nyandwi and silverback Kubaha, her old acquaintances from Pablo’s group.

Nzeli is the mother of two living gorillas - one adult female in Kuryama’s group and one juvenile in Bwenge’s group. She has lost four infants.

Now Nzeli is in Isabukuru’s group together with 15 other gorillas. Isabukuru’s is one of the most successful groups monitored by the Fossey Fund in terms of the number of females who have transferred in. Including Nzeli, seven females have joined this group in recent years.

First gorilla newborn arrives in Musilikale's group
Monday, September 22, 2014

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund is excited to report that on Sept. 18, 2014, 10-year-old mountain gorilla Ubufatanye gave birth, marking the first birth in Musilikale’s group. The group formed in April 2013 after the splitting of Pablo’s group, and Ubufatanye, better known as “Fat,” transferred to the group in January 2014. Due to the time of Fat’s arrival in the group, there is little doubt the father is one of the silverbacks in the group, most likely dominant Musilikale.

Mother gorilla UbufatanyeFat was born in Ugenda's group but has transferred among groups many times during her life. She travelled for a few days at a time with lone silverback Gwiza, and spent time in other groups, such as Titus, Gushimira and Isabukuru’s groups. Typically, female mountain gorillas can become mothers around age 10, so trackers and scientists were excited to see Fat settle down in a group to experience maternity.

Fossey Fund trackers and other staff were particularly happy about this birth because there have been several infant deaths recently. Infant mortality is high among gorillas but even so a new birth is an uplifting and exciting time.

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