Wed, February 1, 2017

Gorilla events keeping field staff busy

This year there have already been many events and changes among the mountain gorilla groups monitored by the Fossey Fund, including increased interactions among groups as well as an increase in snares found. This has made the already challenging job our trackers, researchers and other field staff do every day even more intense!

January started with the amazing return of elderly silverback Canstbee, and dramatic events continued throughout the month. Chief among these has been 11 interactions between groups, which often lead to injuries, transfers and even deaths. This time, the remaining twin of mother Isaro died, after being severely injured in one such interaction. And then Isaro left her group, was missing for a few days and then showed up in another group.

Transfers of females can sometimes result in a young offspring being left behind, which happened when female Ikaze transferred last month. Her young son, Masunzu, was just barely at the age for weaning, but luckily the silverback of his group – Isabukuru – has taken over as a surrogate, sharing his night nest with the little one, providing warmth, grooming and protection. Isabukuru is also helping out with another juvenile, whose mother transferred in November. So his night nest is shared with both youngsters!

Masunzu
Masunzu
Isabukuru and Keza grooming Masunzu
Isabukuru and Keza grooming Masunzu

Some of these interactions have also forced some of the groups to travel much further distances than usual, even across the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, where our Rwandan staff cannot go. That means we sometimes cannot monitor these groups, while they are on the other side of the border.

Snares also increased

In the first two weeks of the year, our teams found 20 snares, many of them very close to the gorillas. Our staff sees evidence that the gorillas are alert to the presence of the snares and believes that some of them have even been deactivated by the gorillas. Gorilla tooth marks on a snare rope are one clear sign of that! By the end of January, the snare numbers found had increased to 30, though the count is still being confirmed.

All of these events underscore the complexity of gorilla behavior, as well as the threats that they face, such as limited habitat space and illegal activities in the forest. And all of these factors can interact and multiply at times, leading to significant effects on the gorillas. The Fossey Fund team is working especially hard to monitor all these activities and to continue providing constant protection to all the groups in our area.

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It’s a great time to help support our award-winning and courageous gorilla trackers, who protect the gorillas every day. Please visit gorillafund.org/get-involved for ideas….