Protecting Grauer's Gorillas in Congo
Grauer’s gorillas, found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo, are facing continuing declines in population, with their home range subjected to conflict since the mid 1990s. Although there is limited data available, their numbers are estimated to be between 2,000 and 10,000 individuals, reflecting a dramatic decline in the past decade, possibly 50 to 75 percent.
Grauer's gorillas, which were formerly called "eastern lowland gorillas," live at a variety of altitudes, not only in lowland areas, but 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 and the Fossey Fund has committed to helping provide long-term solutions.
A new Grauer's gorilla initiative
Unlike mountain gorillas, which have been studied in Rwanda at our Karisoke Research Center for nearly five decades, much less is known about Grauer’s gorillas.
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.
We operate a permanent research and conservation field station in the village of Nkuba, at the edge of a pristine forest, and have conducted an intensive survey in the area, locating 14 groups of Grauer’s gorillas (containing some 150 gorillas) and other important wildlife. This now allows for regular tracking and protection of their habitat, as well as study of critical aspects of their lives, such as diets, ranging patterns, and social systems.
Our intensive research and conservation efforts for the Grauer’s gorilla, modeled on the Karisoke Research Center’s successful and proven approach, include the following:
1. Establishing a permanent forest camp in the heart of Grauer's gorilla range, to enable the uninterrupted tracking of gorilla groups, along with protection from poachers.
2. Monitoring other remote sectors of Grauer's habitat using a network of camera traps.
3. Building capacity of our community-based field staff.
4. Working with local communities to promote gorilla conservation and identify actions to ensure the sustainability of wildlife.
We are also collaborating with Congolese wildlife authorities (ICCN) to observe the only habituated group of Grauer’s gorillas, located in Kahuzi-Biega National Park. This group was originally habituated for tourism and is monitored and protected by ICCN staff. We are working with them to collect data using the same protocols we follow at the Karisoke Research Center. This will enable direct comparisons between the two populations. Since Grauer’s gorillas are the most understudied of the four gorilla subspecies, this work is critical to building the information we need to successfully conserve them.