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Karisoke Researchers Attend “Gorillas Across Africa” Workshop

July 20, 2011

Karisoke Researchers Attend "Gorillas Across Africa" Workshop

Theodette Gatesire in the fieldMy name is Theodette Gatesire, a research assistant in Karisoke's gorilla program. I have been working for Karisoke since 2007, when I was hired as a data entry assistant after being trained there through an internship and other activities. Later I conducted research on lone silverback activities for my undergraduate dissertation, which I presented in 2006 at the National University of Rwanda. Now I collect data on the behavior and feeding ecology of the gorillas.

I recently attended a workshop in Bwindi, Uganda called "Gorillas across Africa," along with my fellow Karisoke research assistant Jean Paul Hirwa. It was hosted by the Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation and led by the Max Planck Institute and the North Carolina Zoo. Participants came from Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Cameroon and Nigeria.

A representative of each country gave updates on the status of gorillas in their country. We shared information on gorilla research history, ongoing research projects and what has been found in different countries.

In a session on veterinary medicine we received updates from the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project on mountain gorilla health care, cases of gorilla illness, and recent veterinary interventions. We also heard what is being done by Conservation Through Public Health around the Ugandan protected areas. In a Conservation and Communities session we learned about different approaches to gorilla conservation and how community-based conservation is effective in different countries. We also had some presentations about conservation education.

In each session we had a discussion with questions and answers from participants, and we even took advantage of the breaks to understand more about what is happening elsewhere, so we could share the experience of our colleagues from the DRC who are struggling to protect gorillas in spite of the total insecurity in their country. We also learned that in West Africa, poachers are still killing gorillas as bush meat and it requires much effort to educate those people.

I learned that all gorilla populations are facing almost the same threats but countries have different policies, different willingness and different interests in their protection. Some countries like Rwanda and Uganda put much effort into gorilla conservation and tourism while others like Gabon are interested in logging and oil extraction.

I also learned how in Nigeria, they use a tool (cyber-tracking) which records different kind of data — including geographic coordinates, behavioral data, animal seen, etc.– and they download them later without taking a long time writing on papers and entering data manually.

At the workshop I gained more knowledge about other gorilla species across Africa. Now I can explain more about not only mountain gorillas but also eastern and western lowland gorillas.

All of us who participated appreciated the workshop and suggested that it would be good to offer it on an annual basis. The organizers agreed but said that more funds would be needed to make that possible.

Theodette Gatesire, Research Assistant, Karisoke Research Center