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Thu, November 10, 2011

Three Gorilla Groups Exit Park Again

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November 10, 2011

Three Gorilla Groups Exit Park Again

Lots of news from the field today, as the mountain gorilla activities have been especially “intense.”

Titus group was again found outside the park this morning, in Kinege area. They were about 400 meters down, in a eucalyptus field. Since they were continuing to move further from the park, staff decided to “herd” them back into the park. This went fairly quickly, as both the trackers and the gorillas have done this several times before.

As we were observing Titus group though, we soon realized that female Ubufatanye (Fat) was missing. (She recently transferred in from Ugenda’s group.) A check of the night nests showed that she left the group on the previous day. Trackers, led by Telesphore Nsengiyumva, went to look for her and located her in the late morning. She was with the lone silverback Turatsinze, who interacted with the group last week.

Initially the two gorillas were scared and ran away from trackers. But later the trackers were able to approach and collect some behavioral data. They were resting in physical contact and Turatsinze groomed Fat twice. No aggressions or displays were observed — just a sexual vocalization by the silverback. The decision of Fat to leave the group did not come as surprise considering that she had also showed her intentions during lone silverback interactions last week.

Kuryama’s group was also found very early outside of the park, in Mudakama area. They were about 800 meters from the park when trackers decided to herd them back in. It was the first such experience for Kuryama’s group so this took some time.

Unfortunately, as Kuryama’s group was finally about to move inside the park, they encountered Isabukuru’s group, which had just exited the park. The two groups interacted for 20 minutes exchanging displays all in the same place. After that the two groups moved to different areas but they stayed outside close to the park border. They all moved inside around 11 a.m.

Trackers observed that three females — Mahirwe, Dukore and Umusatsi with their infants — were missing from Kuryama’s group. A support team came late in the morning to help search for them. The group nest site was not located so we cannot tell if they were missing since yesterday or just this morning.

Tomorrow a larger team, supported by Rwanda park (RDB) staff, will try to locate these missing gorillas. There are concerns especially about the 1-week-old infant of Mahirwe.

An additional team will follow Fat and Turatsinze, collecting data on them.

Submitted by Veronica Vecellio, Gorilla Program Manager

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