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Endangered Species Day – Beyond Gorillas

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This year Endangered Species Day falls on May 21, and we thought this would be a perfect day to talk to you about the endangered species we protect beyond gorillas.

If you’ve been following the Fossey Fund, you know we work to protect both the endangered mountain gorillas of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo the critically endangered Grauer’s gorillas of the DRC. There are just over 1,000 mountain gorillas left on the planet, and there are fewer than 4,000 Grauer’s gorillas — down from more than 17,000 just two decades ago.

Endangered eastern chimpanzees, seen here in one of our camera trap videos, share the forest with critically endangered Grauer’s gorillas

But through our work on habitat conservation and protection of biodiversity, we help many other species of animals and plants as well. In fact, the Nkuba Conservation Area (NCA), where we work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is home to at least eight globally threatened species of mammals, and we’re striving to protect them all by building community partnerships that protect the forests in which they live.

Through camera trap surveys and a range of other inventory methods, we’ve confirmed that the NCA provides habitat for a long list of mammalian and bird species, including not just Grauer’s gorillas but hundreds of eastern chimpanzees, which are considered endangered and have declined by an estimated 22-45% over the last few decades. Other threatened species in the NCA include the owl-faced monkey, two large cats (leopards and African golden cats), the grey parrot and two species of pangolin.

Habitat loss and the international pet trade have driven the decline of the African grey parrot, which was listed as endangered by IUCN in 2018.

Of course, the diversity of species in the NCA does not stop at vertebrates. The forest also houses important species of insects, plants and fungi. Some plant species are declining rapidly, including one plant that gorillas eat, Mitragyna stipulosa, which is now considered “Near Threatened” — just one step away from being vulnerable to extinction.

On Endangered Species Day and every day, we look beyond gorillas and work to protect all of the species that make their forest home a hotbed of biodiversity