Fossey Fund trackers regulary see a number of lone silverbacks in the forest, as we do our regular daily monitoring of gorilla groups. These lone silverbacks often interact with existing groups, in an attempt to form their own groups. Sometimes they succeed, either for the long term or temporarily.
Fruit is a seasonal treat for mountain gorillas
Friday, February 05, 2016
Therre are not many fruiting trees in the Virunga volcanoes habitat where the mountain gorillas live, so they rarely get to eat such sweet "treats." One special treat is the berries of the Rubus bush, which are available seasonally.
Since we’ve announced the birth of Isaro’s twins earlier this week, we’ve received some great questions about twins among mountain gorillas. Because twins are so rare, we don’t yet have all the data needed to fully answer every question, but here is some interesting information that we have observed:
Fossey Fund trackers were surprised and delighted when they reached Isabukuru's group Monday morning, one of the groups monitored daily by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda: Sixteen-year-old female Isaro was found holding two newborn infants! Since the infants were dry, we assumed they had been born during the night or evening prior.
Our founder, the legendary scientist Dr. Dian Fossey, would have turned 84 on Jan. 16 of this year. Although she was killed while trying to find ways to protect her beloved mountain gorillas, her work lives on in so many ways, especially through the daily monitoring and protection that the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund now provides daily.
Here at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, we do our best to supply our gorilla trackers, researchers and everyone else on the field team with the equipment they need to do their jobs protecting, tracking and studying gorillas. But equipment can wear out quickly in the field and there are some extra items that may be in short supply or simply beyond our budget.
Grauer’s gorillas, a type of eastern gorilla that lives only in the Democratic Republic of Congo, are once again among the world's most-endangered primates, as determined by a group of international conservationists, led by scientists at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The Fossey Fund works closely with the community of Bisate in Rwanda, an area that is important because of its close proximity to Volcanoes National Park and the mountain gorillas. Many Fossey Fund trackers and their families live in Bisate as well. Our community work includes helping the local health clinic, which serves more than 19,000 people.
Since Friday, Dec. 4, lone silverbacks Inshuti and Urugwiro have interacted with two of the mountain gorilla groups the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund monitors. On Friday, Inshuti (notoriously known among Fossey Fund staff) began following Isabukuru’s group and interacted with auditory exchanges.
After more than two weeks, the members of Ntambara's gorilla group were seen back together on Friday. The group became severely disrupted starting on Nov. 12, when they interacted with two lone silverbacks (Himbara and Mizero), leading the group to split into several subsets (click here for original news story). Young silverback Twibuke was in front, leading the group quickly to the west side of Mt. Bisoke.
The young gorilla who was freed from a snare last week is doing very well, and his group has returned to normal activities. This was the first snare incident among the gorilla groups that we monitor since April 2014.
Yesterday in one of the groups the Fossey Fund monitors daily in Rwanda, our trackers found juvenile gorilla Itorero caught in a snare. The gorillas in the group had already cut the rope from the snare with their teeth, but the remainder of the rope was still tight around his wrist and needed to be removed.
Last week, a lone silverback interacted with one of the groups monitored regularly by Fossey Fund staff (called Ntambara's group). This resulted in the group breaking up into several subgroups, and the unfortunate deaths of two infants. The resulting events are still ongoing, and our staff has divided up into multiple teams of the most-experienced trackers to monitor each gorilla, and to search for those who become dispersed.
On Nov. 14, dominant silverback Cantsbee turns 37 years old, continuing to lead his group and set new records. He is now past the statistical life expectancy for mountain gorillas, and is the only silverback monitored since birth to have reached this age. He is also one of the last few gorillas we monitor from the generation of gorillas observed by Dian Fossey.
The Dian Fossey Circle Luncheon, held each year in New York City, is a special way that long-time major donors to the Fossey Fund are thanked for their commitment to saving gorillas. The event, which is headlined by honorary chair Sigourney Weaver, features reports from our senior staff and field scientists, as well as a panel discussion and question-and-answer session.
Palm oil, which is used in many products, from foods to cosmetics, is harvested heavily in areas that are home to endangered orangutans, in Indonesia and Malaysia. This has resulted in the destruction of their critical rainforest habitats, putting extreme pressure on the survival of their populations.
The Fossey Fund is saddened to report that dominant silverback Ugutsinda was found dead this morning by our trackers, on what would have been his 25th birthday. We have been monitoring him for an undiagnosed illness since February.
The mountain gorilla census is underway in the field, and Fossey Fund staffers who are participating are highly motivated and excited about the event. They even found some fresh gorilla nests on their first day. This first phase of the census includes six teams that camp in the forest, each with two cooks as well.
Protected area authorities in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, along with partners such as the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, have just embarked on a new population census to determine how many mountain gorillas remain in the Virunga massif, which straddles the three countries.
One of the newest-formed groups followed by the Fossey Fund is led by silverback Mafunzo. It was formed in 2014 when Mafunzo gained two females, and increased in 2015 when some remaining members of another group joined him after losing their silverback.
The decomposing body of a silverback was found on Monday and it is believed to be that of missing silverback Kirahure, who had not been seen by our trackers since August 31, despite intensive searching.
Eleven-year-old Vienne was among a group of Primary 6 students invited to "Heroes Night" at St. Aloysius College, a celebration of inspirational historic figures. She chose Dian Fossey as her hero, which involved a lot of research, preparing a biography, and doing a presentation in the voice and "costume" of her hero.
Fossey Fund trackers observed mountain gorilla Nzeli with a newborn yesterday, bringing the number of gorillas in her group to 10. Mafunzo's group is one of the mountain gorilla groups monitored and protected every day by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. Mother Nzeli is 30 years old and this is her seventh infant.
The 11th annual Kwita Izina gorilla-naming ceremony was held in Rwanda on Sept. 5 and featured a record-high number of 24 infant mountain gorillas named (six of whom were from groups the Fossey Fund monitors and protects).
On Monday, Fossey Fund trackers were unable to locate dominant silverback Kirahure, who has been recovering from wounds on his head since the beginning of August (see earlier blogs). He had been seen on Sunday, when he engaged in normal activities, though was still quite thin.
Fossey Fund trackers are still carefully following the members of Gushimira's group, since their leader was killed in an interaction with formerly lone silverback Giraneza. Giraneza has since taken over at least part of the group. Initially, three of Gushimira's females were found with him and today our trackers found that a fourth female (Kurinda) had joined him.
After the death of silverback group leader Gushimira yesterday, formerly lone silverback Giraneza today was still with the same three females he was with yesterday (Pasika, Iterambere, and Inziza). His actions, such as charging and grunting when our trackers approached, indicated he was nervous.
The Fossey Fund is saddened to report the death of dominant silverback Gushimira. When our trackers arrived at his group this morning, three of his group’s females were found with well-known lone silverback Giraneza, but Gushimira – along with five other group members – was not seen.
Fossey Fund trackers and research staff are reporting concerns today regarding dominant silverback Gushimira, the only silverback of his group. This weekend, he was observed not eating well and to have soft stool.
Silverback Kirahure, nearly 24 years old, is recovering after being wounded in an unseen interaction or fight with another silverback. Kirahure is the leader of a group of mountain gorillas called Kuryama’s group.
A newborn was observed today in one of the mountain gorilla groups monitored daily by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. Young female Akamaro (9 years old) was observed with a newborn this morning in Isabukuru's group.
Each year the Fossey Fund offers a variety of individual gorillas for "adoption," which raises money that directly supports their daily protection by our staff of trackers, anti-poachers, scientists and others.
In addition to daily protection and study of gorillas, the Fossey Fund works with local communities to help increase conservation awareness. This takes place on many levels, from programs for primary and secondary school children to working with hundreds of science students from local colleges.
Mountain gorilla Taraja was observed by our trackers with a newborn on July 19. She lives in a group of mountain gorillas led by silverback Mafunzo, one of the newest groups followed daily by the Fossey Fund.
Dr. Tara Stoinski, Fossey Fund president and CEO/chief scientist, has been tweeting from the field on her current trip to our Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda. To keep up, follow us on Twitter at this link: http://twitter.com/SavingGorillas
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund's work is made possible largely through long-term support, donations and individual fundraising—and it’s always particularly inspiring for our organization to see an extraordinarily young donor fundraising for our cause and for the well-being of gorillas. Trajan Lance is one such example, and describes the population increase in mountain gorillas as a reason to do more work and increase fundraising.
I am headed off to the Fossey Fund’s Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda, accompanied by seven huge bags of supplies for our field staff, along with my 7- and 8-year-old daughters. We’ll spend close to a month in Africa – the girls playing with the friends they made last year while I work with our gorilla programs.
Fossey Fund gorilla trackers witnessed an interaction between two large groups of mountain gorillas today. One of the groups (called Ntambara group) is followed every day by the Fossey Fund. The other group (called Amahoro group) is followed by the Rwanda park authorities, for visitation by tourist groups.
Elderly female Maggie is one of the few remaining mountain gorillas of the generation studied by Dian Fossey. She’s also a favorite of Fossey Fund honorary chair Sigourney Weaver, who met Maggie while filming “Gorillas in the Mist,” based on Fossey’s book.
Seven-year-old male mountain gorilla Ntaribi had been traveling alone since April 6, after facing dramatic changes in his groups, starting last fall. He was the most affected when the leader of his natal group – silverback Bwenge – died after a fight with a lone silverback in October of last year.
Fossey Fund field staff are very concerned about the well being of 24-year-old dominant silverback Ugutsinda, who is the leader of the Ntambara group of mountain gorillas, one of the larger groups we monitor regularly. He suffered from severe illness in February and was left behind by his group in early March.
A new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners states that organized crime and illegal trade in natural resources continue to create conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Center in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo reached a major milestone this week by officially opening a 24-acre forest enclosure for its 13 resident Grauer's gorillas, all orphans that were rescued after being illegally captured by poachers and traders.
The Fossey Fund is very saddened to report the death of silverback Wageni, just two weeks after the death of the dominant silverback in his group, Ugenda. Like Ugenda, it appears that Wageni had also been involved in an intense interaction with lone silverback Giraneza on April 7.
Great news from the Fossey Fund trackers today! After quite a few days without a clear leader, following the death of dominant silverback Ugenda on April 8, silverback Wageni was seen today back with the group!
An article published in the journal Science on April 10 reveals for the first time the complete genome sequence of the mountain gorilla and Grauer’s gorilla subspecies (which make up the eastern gorilla species). While this is a very important scientific step, it will take some years for all the information to be extracted and analyzed, says Fossey Fund scientist Damien Caillaud, DVM, Ph.D.
Following the death of leading silverback Ugenda on Tuesday night, Fossey Fund trackers report today that many of the remaining group members have reunited, for the time being at least. An adult female named Inziza appeared to guide five Ugenda members (consisting of females and youngsters) toward the site of the interaction, where Ugenda died from his wounds and where his body remains.
One of the oldest mountain gorillas monitored by the Fossey Fund ─ dominant silverback Ugenda ─ died overnight after an intense interaction with lone silverback Giraneza. The group he led is currently in some disarray.
During the past several weeks, Fossey Fund trackers as well as those from the Rwanda park authorities (RDB), have been observing an interesting development and doing some good detective work. A 14-year-old silverback named Iyambere, who left Pablo’s group (where he was born) almost two years ago and became solitary, returned on March 21 and interacted with Pablo’s group.
The small group of mountain gorillas led by silverback Gushimira was formed in 2013 but has moved in and out of our monitoring range throughout much of its history. This happens when they cross the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where our Rwandan trackers cannot follow.
Fossey Fund gorilla trackers are happy to report that dominant silverback Ugutsinda, who leads Ntambara's group of mountain gorillas, is back in his group today after some days of being alone and appearing ill. In addition, his health appears to be improving.
The last few days have marked two exciting events for Musilikale’s group: a transfer and a birth! On March 9, female Rugira from Kuryama’s group was seen with Musilikale.
Missing silverback and elderly female seen
Monday, March 09, 2015
On Sunday, Fossey Fund trackers were able to see one of the silverbacks reported as missing in the blog on March 6. Silverback Ugutsina was seen about 500 meters from his group, which near the top of Mr. Visoke. Unfotunately he still appeared weak, and the environment in this area is a difficult one. The group appeared fine, with silverback Twibuke leading it.
In other interesting news, elderly female Maggie, who was not seen for several days, was also located during the weekend, after a large, collaborative patrol was sent on a special search fo her. However, she is traveling alone and was distressed by the presence of trackers. She was moving and feeding normally.
Although the causes and details are still unclear, both leading silverbacks from Ntambara’s group are no longer in their group, after each developed health problems. The first case was that of second-ranking silverback Ntambara (29 years old) who went missing from the group on Feb. 6.
Winnie Eckardt, Ph.D., has taken on a new role as research manager at the Fossey Fund’s Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda. She is no stranger to Karisoke, having worked there first as a research assistant starting in 2004, and later returning as a teaching fellow with the National University of Rwanda to train and supervise graduate students conducting research at Karisoke.
Elderly female mountain gorilla Maggie, along with her 5-year-old son Gasore, left Ugenda's group on Feb. 17. She was then seen by Fossey Fund trackers with lone silverback Giraneza. However, she seemed to be trying to avoid Giraneza, who was displaying toward her, following her, and making sexual vocalizations.
Silverback Ntambara, who is second in charge of his group, has not been located by our daily tracking team since Feb. 6. Before his “disappearance,” the 29-year-old silverback had shown signs of being unwell, following an interaction with another group on Jan. 29, so the possibility of injury is very concerning.
A recent paper published in the journal Zootaxa, describes two new genera of moths (from the family of moths called Metarbelidae), found in the northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Author and scientist Ingo Lehmann, of the University of Bonn, explained in his paper that he named the new genus “Dianfosseya,” to “honour her love and life work for Africa …."
Female mountain gorillas have an average of three to four infants during their lifetime. Even though we monitor gorillas every day, it is very rare that our staff will actually witness a gorilla birth taking place.
After a peaceful beginning of the year for Ugenda's gorilla group, Fossey Fund trackers witnessed an interesting interaction on Feb. 3. The excitement happened with Kuryama’s group and started as an auditory interaction. No transfers or injuries resulted, but all the gorillas were mixed together at one point and there were lots of displays!
Dian Fossey came to Africa at the urging of famed anthropologist Louis Leakey, who was studying human evolution in Africa and hoped that studying primates in the wild would help us better understand ourselves. In 1967, Dian Fossey founded the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda’s gorilla habitat..
Due to years of civil unrest and other obstacles, Grauer’s gorillas (found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo) have received little protection and minimal study, but we know their numbers are falling. This type of gorilla is included among the 25 most-endangered primates in the world by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Felix Ndagijimana was appointed as the first Rwandan director of the Karisoke Research Center on Jan. 16, 2012 — a historic moment on a historic date, marking what would have been Dian Fossey’s 80th birthday. Three years later, the Fossey Fund commemorates the birthday of our founder and the appointment of the Karisoke director.
YYears after Dr. Dian Fossey’s life was cut short, her impact on conservation and dedication to mountain gorillas still inspires people around the world. Beatrice Burgo, who lives in France, is among the many people who were influenced by Dian Fossey’s passion. And, Burgo has begun a tradition to honor her hero by visiting Rwanda every other year.
A young male gorilla who had been traveling alone since early November was seen back in a group this morning. Fossey Fund trackers were relieved to see 7-year-old Ntaribi in Ugenda’s group, because he is too young to be traveling alone, but had been doing so since his original group lost its leader (silverback Bwenge) and then eventually merged with another group (Ugenda’s).
Whenever habituated mountain gorilla groups shift their range to areas Fossey Fund trackers cannot go, it is stressful and worrying for our staff. This had been the case with Kuryama’s group, which disappeared from our monitoring areas and into Congo during April 2014; however, the Fossey Fund received an unexpected early Christmas present on Dec. 23, when trackers spotted the group for the first time in eight months.
After finishing her book, “Gorillas in the Mist” and working at Cornell University as a visiting associate professor, Dian Fossey returned to Rwanda in 1985 to continue her pioneering work studying and protecting the mountain gorillas she had come to know and love so well over two decades in Africa.
Each group of mountain gorillas the Fossey Fund protects at the Karisoke Research Center has a team of trackers designated to monitor them every day. During the past month, an entire team of at least four trackers has been tracking a young male gorilla, named Ntaribi, who has been traveling alone in recent weeks.
Like Dr. Dian Fossey, the legendary scientist Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, was fascinated by animals as a child and went to Africa as a young woman to study apes, in her case chimpanzees. And like Dian Fossey, Goodall also encountered the famed archaeologist and paleontologist Louis S. B. Leakey, who hired her as an assistant and asked her to study a group of chimpanzees in Tanzania.
During this season of thanks, we would like to recognize all of our supporters from around the world who help us save gorillas. The Fossey Fund’s daily gorilla monitoring, community programs, and other work are made possible by the thousands of individuals who adopt gorillas, become partners and members, hold fundraisers, and send in donations.
The Fossey Fund has recently suffered two significant personnel losses at both our Atlanta headquarters and in Rwanda. On Dec. 2, Fossey Fund staff member Theogene Niyibizi died after being involved in a car accident, and on Dec. 5, former chief development officer Beth Smith died peacefully at her home after a long battle with cancer.
Damien Caillaud, DVM, Ph.D., Fossey Fund Research Program Director, Grauer's Gorilla Research and Conservation Program, recently led a discussion about the Ebola virus, highlighting how it affects both humans and wild animals.
Fossey Fund trackers report that three of the four gorillas from Gushimira group (Faida, Kanama, and Kanama’s infant Kwigira), who had traveled away and temporarily joined Ugenda's group earlier this week, are now back with silverback Gushimira and all seem to be fine!
This morning, Fossey Fund trackers found four gorillas from Gushimira group (three adult females – Ukuri, Faida, Kanama – as well as Kanama’s infant Kwigira) traveling alone, without dominant silverback Gushimira or the other female of their group (Bishushwe).
If you attended the Fossey Fund's latest Live Update on Nov. 13 with Director of the Karisoke Research Center Felix Ndagijimana and Gorilla Program Coordinator Veronica Vecellio, you know the latest updates about Maggie and Bwenge’s group, gorillas going out of the park for bamboo shoots, and the new Biaste Learning Center.
So many events occurred among the mountain gorilla groups monitored by the Fossey Fund in the past few days, including some interactions with other groups of gorillas that are monitored by the Rwanda Development Board.
Atlanta, Ga., has been home to the international headquarters of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund for more than 19 years, thanks to Zoo Atlanta’s in-kind donation of space and resources. Thursday, Nov. 13, has been designated as "Georgia Gives Day," a day where people across the state raise as much money for participating nonprofits as possible within a 24-hour period.
After more than a month of uncertainty following dominant silverback Bwenge’s unexpected death, Fossey Fund trackers report that Maggie and the remainder of Bwenge’s group have merged with Ugenda’s group, bringing the number to a total of 13 gorillas and hopefully bringing the group some stability after a succession of unpredictable events.
At the annual Dian Fossey Circle luncheon Oct. 13 in New York City, the long career of Clare Richardson as Fossey Fund president and CEO was celebrated, along with presentations by other Fossey leaders, field staff and scientists.
The gorillas of Bwenge’s group are still under the leadership of Maggie, but Fossey Fund staff does not expect this atypical situation to continue for long. On Oct. 3, the group ran into Titus group, which also lost a dominant silverback, Rano, in July, but there were no transfers.
The day after silverback Bwenge’s sudden death, his group still seems calm, with elder female Maggie leading them. However, they are ranging just a few hundred meters from Titus’ group and are aware this other group is near. Fossey Fund trackers will be observing closely to see what happens next.
We have just updated and improved our blog function and will now once again be offering frequent updates about all of the gorillas we monitor in Africa, as well as information about our community programs, our scientific studies, and other items of interest.
Today the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund field staff witnessed another interaction involving Giraneza’s group. This is the same group that lost a female (Nyandwi, who transferred out) and an infant (who was killed during an interaction) last week during an encounter with with Isabukuru's group.
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund field staff are happy to report that 26–year-old female mountain gorilla Mudakama, from Pablo's group, give birth for the fourth time on June 19. This birth has increased Pablo's group to 36 gorillas. It is the largest group of mountain gorillas despite the size reduction that occurred in April 2013, when seven gorillas left to form an independent group.
Billboards are going up all over Rwanda as the ninth annual Kwita Izina ceremony is rapidly approaching. Kwita Izina is a five-day celebration of the mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, culminating in a ceremony in which all of the infant gorillas born in the past year are named.
Fossey Fund staff are delighted to report that 17-year-old female mountain gorilla Muganga, from Isabukuru’s group, and her new infant born on May 21, are doing well. Since the birth of her new infant, Muganga has displayed confidence in her parenting abilities, as she has been exposing the infant openly while breast feeding.
It has been a stressful couple of days. On Monday, in my home in Goma, I woke at 4 a.m. to the noise of an attack. It seems that the attack was launched by the rebel troops M23 against the Democratic Republic of Congo army…
Yesterday we announced the birth of a newborn in Isabukuru's group, to female Muganga.Today we had our first good sight of the infant. Our researcher Didier Abavandimwe was there specifically to observe the newborn and collect routine behavioural data.
I'm happy to tell you all that Inshuti is fine. When I went up to see him today he was alert, feeding and moving normally. Phocas (long term head tracker in Inshuti's group) was with me and that may be the reason why Inshuti allowed us to stay close to him and I could have a perfect view.
Good and bad news from the field today. The good news: We found Inshuti, after many months. The bad news is that he is severely injured. Inshuti's group is still composed of just two gorillas: the silverback and female Shangaza.
Sadly, gorilla Muntu's infant, one of this year's newborns (born March 27), was found dead this morning by Fossey Fund trackers, though still being carried by mother Muntu. Since the birth we have suspected that the mother's milk supply was insufficient.The infant seemed to be fine for a while, but was much smaller than normal.
Bishushwe has now gained a central position in Ntambara's group, as dominant Ugutsinda has taken her under his "custody." Indeed, today she she spent most of the time with the silverback, with whom she exchanged several bonding behaviours such as grooming and resting in physical contact.
Silverback Musilikale, who had been leading a group split off from the large Pablo's group (led by elder Cantsbee) was not seen today, and the six gorillas that were with him have rejoined Pablo's group. Yesterday, the two groups were still separate and apart, quite distant from another.
Kubaha, a 15-year old silverback in the Isabukuru group, has never had the best relationship with his fellow group members. Isabukuru, the group’s namesake dominant silverback, has a history of displaying aggressive behavior toward Kubaha …
The newly formed mountain gorilla group led by silverback Musilikale was very close to the original group (Pablo's, led by Cantsbee) this morning. The two groups were in the bamboo zone exploiting the first bamboo shoots of the season. They were still separated at the end of the day, but just 100 meters apart. We are very curious to see if the group will reunite or not.
After five weeks traveling solo, Umusatsi was seen April 22 in Giraneza's group! We could tell that she had already spent the previous night in the group, because an additional nest was found with the others.
All of us at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International want to recognize and honor the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day. The first Earth Day was launched on April 22, 1970, in the United States and is now celebrated by more than a billion people worldwide. Today, the Earth Day Network and numerous other environmental organizations work together to help secure a healthy future for the planet.
This morning Fossey Fund trackers observed an atypical interaction between Bwenge's group and Giraneza's group. It lasted a couple of hours during which the gorillas of both groups were apparently calm ignoring the other's presence.
Yesterday, female mountain gorilla Bukima, from Isabukuru's group, gave birth to her fourth infant. This is the third infant born this year in the groups monitored by the Fossey Fund, with two from Isabukuru's group.
In Rwanda, a somber week-long remembrance and commemoration period is underway, on the anniversary of the genocide that took place there this month 19 years ago.
On Sunday, April 7 all Karisoke staff participated in a ceremony at the Busogo Memorial site, one of the 200 or so memorial sites throughout Rwanda, to honor the many lives that were lost during the onslaught.
Pablo’s group seems to be split yet again. Musilikale, a peripheral silverback in the group who has a history of challenging both the group’s dominant silverback, Cantsbee and his son, the second-ranking silverback Gicurasi, has been spotted several times in the past few weeks without the rest of the group except for seven other gorillas, mostly females.
As published in the March 2013 International Journal of Primatology, a team of international researchers has discovered two new species of mouse lemurs, using DNA analysis from skin samples. The mouse lemurs were first discovered in 2003, when the study, the first of its kind to formally identify the mouse lemur as a separate species, began.
This morning Fossey Fund trackers could not reach Pablo’s group, due to the difficult terrain in their area and bad weather. They found just a small part of the group, only seven gorillas, led by young (15-year-old) silverback Musilikale.
Mountain gorilla female Bishushwe's position in the Ntambara group has been unclear since she reluctantly joined it after the disbanding of the Urugamba group. This was due to the sudden death of dominant silverback Urugamba in late January. When major changes occur in group dynamics, such as the addition of new gorillas, the integration and settlement of hierarchy is extremely important to their social order and group dynamics.
This morning, the Kuryama group's trackers found juvenile male Haguruka caught in a snare. This is the second time a juvenile from Kuryama's group has been caught in a snare in 2013. Juvenile female Dukore was also caught in February.
The rest of the group was very stressed and crowded around Haguruka, even pulling on him.
This morning Muntu from Isabukuru’s group gave birth. With the newborn, Isabukuru’s group has now reached 12 gorillas. The infant seems to be in good health. Trackers estimated that the delivery took place last night.
Double good news from the field: First, this morning we saw Giraneza’s group again, one of two small groups that we had stopped following last year. The last time we saw Giraneza’s group was in January, for just two days. We are happy to confirm that they are all in good health.
We have observed some changes in Gushimira’s newly formed group. Although field staff did not find the group on Mar. 11-13, its trails showed that it crossed somehow with the trails for Ugenda’s group around Mar. 11 and 12.
Silverback Gushimira recently formed a new group by attracting three females from Ugenda’s group, but the situation of his group still seems unstable. This morning, in fact, female Inziza was found back in Ugenda’s group, and the nest count suggested that she may have rejoined them yesterday.
We are sad to report that Amatwara, the infant of female Bishushwe, has died from the wounds inflicted the previous week by another gorilla, most likely Ugutsinda, the dominant silverback in the group that the infant and his mother had recently joined. Unfortunately, infanticide by a silverback is not uncommon when a female gorilla with a young infant changes groups.
Today, the situation was still the same with infant Amatwara. He is inactive and moves by riding on his mother Bishushwe's back or just stays on the ground while she eats. While the gorillas rest, Amatwara is on his mother's breast.
Bishushwe’s infant Amatwara was found injured on Friday (although he was at first mistaken for Pasika’s infant Turate). Female Bishushwe had probably joined Ntambara's group on Thursday evening after having been on her own for a month, since Jan. 29.
Today and yesterday, our trackers did not locate Gushimira and the three females he recently acquired from Ugenda’s group (Kanama, Kurudi and Inziza). It seems that the newly formed group had changed their ranging area. We will keep looking for them every day, hoping to find them soon.
After the interaction between Ugenda's group and the lone silverback Gushimira yesterday (see previous blogs), the three females followed silverback Gushimira and moved away. The two groups nested about100 meters apart, but this morning they moved in opposite directions. Today, the distance between them was 300 meters. All the gorillas in each group seemed to be fine and infant Sabato stayed close to silverback Ugenda.
After the interaction Friday morning, the lone silverback Gushimira moved away with Ugenda’s three females. The four gorillas stayed together Saturday and Sunday at about 1 km from Ugenda's group. Silverbacks Ugenda and Wageni are gradually recovering from their multiple wounds.
Fossey Fund trackers and research staff, as well as Dr. Dawn Zimmerman from Gorilla Doctors, went to see what had transpired with Ugenda, Wageni and group members this morning and found them very close to where they were when left yesterday. Ugenda and Wageni were weak, with very visible wounds.
Ugenda’s group interacted with a lone silverback, resulting in the loss of his three females to the outsider. The lone silverback was later identified as Gushimira, who had left Pablo’s group in August 2011.
Gorilla Doctors conducted a necropsy on 21-year-old silverback Urugamba, who passed away suddenly on January 25 and determined that he had a colonic perforation (tear in the large bowel) that caused peritonitis (infection in the abdomen) and subsequent sepsis.
Today, a large team visited Kuryama's group to remove the remaining rope from a snare that caught 4-year-old female Dukore yesterday. Although Dukore had managed to escape from the snare, she was still left with rope encircling her left ankle.
Adult female Bishushwe has been traveling alone in the forest with her infant, 1-year-old Amatwara, since Jan. 29, when the rest of Urugamaba’s former group merged with Ntambara’s group following the death of their dominant silverback.
This morning, the Fossey Fund trackers for Kuryama's group discovered juvenile female mountain gorilla Dukore with the remnants of a snare around her left leg. All of the gorillas in the group were resting near her but seemed to be calm, suggesting that Dukore was probably caught in the early morning quite a while before trackers reached the group.
The Fossey Fund is delighted to learn that another significant gorilla population will be protected by a new national park, in the Republic of Congo. Some 15,000 western lowland gorillas were discovered by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in the northern part of that country in 2008, within the boundaries of the new Ntokou-Pikounda National Park. WCS announced the designation of the new park on January 31, complimenting the Republic of Congo’s government for its leadership and foresight.
This morning Fossey Fund trackers confirmed that the silverback met yesterday was, indeed, Inshuti, traveling with female Shangaza. We are very happy to have finally located them after four months and to see that they are both fine. Inshuti does not like human presence and he moved fast to avoid our trackers, but we got a good view of him and Shangaza nevertheless.
Today, Ntambara’s team found most survivors of Urugamba's group — female Pasika, her two offspring, and Bishushwe’s juvenile son, Igisubizo — with Ntambara’s group, a sign that the two groups are indeed merging, five days after Urugamba's death.
Gorilla Program Manager Veronica Vecellio and Research Assistant Samedi Mucyo accompanied Urugamba’s tracker team in the forest on Jan. 28 to assess how the six surviving members of the group were coping since the death of their dominant silverback, Urugamba, on the evening of Jan. 24.
Bishushwe has now gained a central position in Ntambara's group, as dominant Ugutsinda has taken her under his "custody." Indeed, today she she spent most of the time with the silverback, with whom she exchanged several bonding behaviours such as grooming and resting in physical contact.
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund staff are very sad that we must report the death of silverback Urugamba. He was the leader and only silverback in his small group of just seven gorillas and was always known for his peaceful demeanor.
Silverback Urugamba, the dominant and only adult male of the his group, was found very weak this morning by the Fossey Fund's trackers. He was still in his night nest, while the rest of the group was a few meters from him feeding. During the entire morning he didn’t eat a bite of vegetation and moved less than 10 meters. The few meters he did walk were taken very slowly, in small steps.
January 16, 2013, would have been Dr. Dian Fossey’s 81st birthday. The anniversary of her untimely death on Dec. 26, 1985, occurred only a few weeks earlier, so it is heartening at the start of a new year to remember how much she was able to accomplish.
Two gorilla infants that have been cared for by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and its partners for the past three months since they were rescued from poachers have completed their final quarantine exams.
Last week, our Grauer’s gorilla research and conservation program in the Democratic Republic of Congo was able to launch gorilla patrols again. Our trackers experienced a longer absence from the field than expected due to the security situation in Goma, the provincial capital city.
A new study looks at changes in the abundance and distribution of the mountain gorillas' favorite food plants in selected areas of Volcanoes National Park over a 20-year period, to shed light on the resources available to the growing gorilla population. The authors note that although the Virunga gorilla population doubled since the 1970s, this is the first study of how this change in density may have affected changes in their food supply during the past 20 years.
On Dec. 13, the Fossey Fund continued a tradition begun by Dr. Fossey herself of throwing an annual holiday party at our Karisoke Research Center. Our staff from our programs in Rwanda and DR Congo all gathered at the Fossey Fund's new regional research center building in Musanze for a celebration of the year's achievements.
Many scientists have found that certain personality traits may help people stay healthy and live longer, though they have yet to understand how this works. Now, the phenomenon has been observed in gorillas, and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s Vice President and Chief Scientist Tara Stoinski, Ph.D. was one of the researchers.
Today, the Fossey Fund gorilla trackers located all of the gorilla groups we normally follow in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park, after several days of catching up with their trails, following the short interruption on Sunday and Monday. For most of the groups, we even obtained their complete travel path, which means that we did not miss any part of their moving pattern during the recent days and have a complete understanding of where they have been.
After resuming daily monitoring yesterday, following a two-day interruption due to the attack on our anti-poaching camp, the Fossey Fund’s gorilla group trackers have begun to find most of the groups that we regularly follow. The tracking has been difficult due to heavy rains.
Four groups were located today: Ugenda, Isabukuru, Titus and Bwenge groups were as seen, as well as fresh trails from Pablo, Urugamba and Ntambara groups.
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund's regular monitoring of mountain gorilla groups in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park resumed today, after a two-day interruption caused by an attack on one of its anti-poaching camps on December 2, in which the camp was destroyed and one of our rangers killed.
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund is deeply saddened to report that one of its anti-poaching camps in Rwanda, near Volcanoes National Park, was attacked in the early morning of Dec. 2, 2012 by the DR Congo-based FDLR (according to Rwandan officials), and a member of our anti-poaching team – Esdras Nsengiyumva – was killed by gunfire.
It is unclear what the upcoming days will bring for Goma and surrounding areas in DR Congo, given political developments over the weekend between rebel and government forces. The Fossey Fund remains vigilant and prepared, given the precarious nature of the security situation.
Our office in Goma, DR Congo, re-opened yesterday, as businesses there begin to resume some normal operations. With the border open again, our top staff from Congo plan soon to join our weekly meeting at our Karisoke headquarters in Musanze, Rwanda.
We remain in close contact several times a day with our staff in DR Congo, as the security situation there continues to evolve. Although the political/military status in Goma, DR Congo, has changed as of today and a rebel group occupies the city, our Congolese staff there remain safe and in their homes, preferring not to evacuate. Our Goma office remains closed for the time being. Our head staff reports that the fighting there calmed down this afternoon.
As fighting worsened this weekend around the city of Goma, DR Congo, we are taking precautions to protect our Congolese staff who are based there, and making plans for their evacuation, including their family members, if needed.
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund currently has four Congolese staff based in Goma and all have reported in safe, in their homes. One other staff person from a different area of Congo is also currently in Goma.
Cantsbee, the dominant silverback of Pablo's group, turned 34 years old yesterday. Ordinarily we do not write about gorilla birthdays, but Cantsbee is a special case. Not only is he one of the last living gorillas named by Dian Fossey, but he also presides over the largest group of mountain gorillas that the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund monitors.
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund is delighted by the just-released results of an important gorilla census undertaken in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, which shows a minimum of 400 gorillas, up from 302 counted in the last census (2006), reported today by the Uganda Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities and the Uganda Wildlife Authority. This now brings the total world population of mountain gorillas up to a minimum of 880, when the 480 from the Virungas are added.
When Urugamba’s team found the gorilla group on Thursday morning, the trackers saw that the infant Turate had a piece of rope encircling his ankle, indicating that he had been caught in a snare. They tracked backward along the group’s trails in order to locate the snare. When they found it, the trackers could see that it had already been destroyed.
Over the past few months, the Congolese wildlife authority (ICCN) has been facing increased illegal trafficking of infant Grauer's gorillas. When authorities rescue these young gorillas, they cannot be returned to their natal groups and are now both orphaned and separated from their natural habitat.
Last fall, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund field staff faced a new challenge in monitoring gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. Two groups in particular, Titus' group and Kuryama's group, began leaving the park regularly to feed on eucalyptus in the agricultural areas surrounding the park, and then choosing to sleep outside of the park rather than return. Although gorillas had ventured out of the park in the past, they had not slept outside of the park before last November.
The Grauer's gorilla is again included on a list of the world's 25 most-endangered primates, released for the period 2012-2014 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) earlier this month. The Grauer's gorilla was included on the previous list as well.
Ntambara's mountain gorilla group has just received a new addition to their family. Tegereza, a female who is nearly 13 years old, just gave birth to her first infant. Fossey Fund trackers saw the infant for the first time on Oct. 14 and both Tegereza and her infant appeared to be in good health.
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund is very happy to introduce our new, additional anti-poaching team, which began its first patrols in Volcanoes National Park this week. This new team will supplement the team we already have in the field, in order to better protect the gorillas and to respond to specific challenges posed by the increase in the number of gorilla groups we monitor and their expanding range.
The two Grauer’s gorilla infants who were confiscated in September in the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to improve under the care of Fossey Fund caregivers and Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) veterinarians at the Senkwekwe Sanctuary.
They have received names, and we are pleased to introduce them as Isangi and Baraka.
A second infant gorilla, presumed to be a female Grauer’s gorilla, has been confiscated recently in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She was recovered on Sept. 20 by Virunga National Park law enforcement.
An infant Grauer’s gorilla was confiscated from members of an armed militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) this week. A Fossey Fund partner organization, Jeunesse pour la Protection de l’Environnement (JPE), received information that some individuals were in illegal possession of an infant gorilla at the end of August and worked for weeks to determine its location. On Sept. 12, JPE and Congolese law enforcement collaborated to recover the young gorilla.
We are sad to report that 3-year-old male mountain gorilla Akarusho has passed away, due to a variety of wounds suffered since he left his mother’s group on July 10. A medical intervention with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project was conducted on Sept. 10.
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund enjoyed an especially high profile at the International Primatological Society’s (IPS) 2012 congress, held in Cancun, Mexico in August. Because 2012 marks the 45th anniversary of the Fossey Fund’s Karisoke Research Center, our staff organized a symposium to feature current and previous Karisoke scientists, including four Rwandan scientists, who presented an overview of the Center’s contribution to the field of primatology and its current research on the mountain gorillas and other biodiversity in the region.
We are sad to report that an adult female from Isabukuru's group, 12-year-old Icyizere, was found dead this morning. Last week, our trackers reported that she seemed to be losing hair on her belly, but otherwise, she was behaving and feeding as normal. On Tuesday, however, she went missing, prompting our staff to form a special team that recovered her body today.
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund has been recognized by the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) for being one of the best taxpayers in the Northern Province, where Volcanoes National Park and the Karisoke Research Center are located.
Our trackers who follow Pablo’s group noticed today that the gorillas were crowding around 11-year old female Ishema. They all looked at her curiously, including her 3-year old youngster, Imfura. Soon trackers discovered the source of all the excitement—Ishema was holding a new infant.
On August 20th, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund field staff reported that Bwenge’s group interacted with a lone silverback while they were ranging on a mountainous ridge between Karisimbi and Bisoke. Unseen by Bwenge, the silverback entered the group and approached Akaramata, a 4-year old juvenile female.
If you can be in Calgary, Canada this October, be sure to register for the fabulous 2012 Calgary Gorilla Run, which starts at 8 am on Sunday, October 14. The Gorilla Run is an exciting race that raises funds for gorilla conservation and protection initiatives both in captivity and in the wild, including special donations to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund to help protect mountain gorillas, and to the Calgary Zoo.
Ape Conservation Effort, Inc. (ACE) will host the second annual Gorilla Golf Tournament on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 at the Brookfield Country Club, 100 Willow Run, Roswell, Georgia 30075. Each of the 32 golfers will raise a minimum of $500 to participate in the tournament, and all proceeds will benefit the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.
Infant Akarusho joined silverback Inshuti this morning. The infant is fine but obviously distressed, after a night spent alone. He cried when he saw Inshuti and from that time he was very close to him for the whole day. Inshuti is still dealing with his wounds (from attacks by lone silverbacks) but he moves and feeds abundantly.
Today we found silverback Inshuti. He was alone and appeared weak. He was moving slowly but feeding abundantly, in the Tamu area on the bottom of Bikereri hill. One kilometer away on the slope of the hill were the lone silverback Giraneza with female Nyandwi, the same as yesterday. But surprisingly, they were not alone!
Nyandwi, one of the females of Inshuti’s group, was found today with the lone silverback Giraneza, one of the lone silverbacks that interacted with the group on Feb. 2. The two gorillas seemed fine but they ran away from trackers, so it was not possible to get a good observation of their activities/behavior.
The Karisoke research gorilla group that has been hassled for weeks now by various lone silverbacks has been reported by field staff to be missing for the third day in a row. Inshuti’s group was last located on Thursday, Feb. 2. Two patrol teams, with the support of the anti-poaching rangers, were dispatched to search for the missing group Saturday, Sunday and Monday, but unfortunately they were unable to find a trace of them.
The lone silverback drama involving Inshuti and his group has continued on through the end of this week, reports the Fossey Fund’s Karisoke Research Center field staff. The dominant silverback truly cannot catch a break from the lone males ranging in the forest tenaciously seeking out females to steal. Yesterday, Karisoke researcher Winnie Eckardt, PhD. and research assistant Samedi Muyco witnessed an interaction that lasted from early morning to late afternoon and had the females of the group shaking with fear.
Dominant silverback Isabukuru fought Kubaha Monday, reported Karisoke Research Assistant Jean Paul Hirwa. The researcher noticed that Isabukuru was clearly uncomfortable with Kubaha’s presence yesterday morning when the field staff arrived at the group, and the dominant male was keeping a close eye on the beta male.
Silverback Inshuti is not getting much of a break from lone silverbacks! Today he interacted with lone silverback Tuyizere. This lone silverback followed the group forcing Inshuti to travel a long distance. Inshuti charged him twice to prevent him from going any closer to the females in the group. Fortunately, the dominant silverback appeared to have recovered enough from last week’s attack to deal with the intruder.
Karisoke researcher Winnie Eckardt, Ph.D., accompanied the team assembled to assess the condition of injured dominant silverback Inshuti this morning. Eckardt reported that “although his injuries are indeed severe, the group leader appears to be toughing it out — in typical Inshuti style” and a medical intervention was not necessary.
Two lone silverbacks joined forces and attacked 24-year-old dominant silverback Inshuti today, reports Fossey Fund Field Data Coordinator John Ndayambaje. Inshuti sustained three large bite wounds on his head and one on his neck. Veterinarians Dr. Dawn Zimmerman and Dr. Jean-Felix Kinani (of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project), along with a team of Karisoke trackers, will trek to the group tomorrow to assess the damage and potentially carry out a medical intervention. Karisoke researcher Winnie Eckardt, PhD., will join the team to collect behavioral data and fecal samples for her ongoing study on stress in the mountain gorillas.
Yesterday our anti-poaching team made a routine patrol on Mount Karisimbi’s eastern slope (not far from the old Karisoke camp) and they found 26 snares. Today, anti-poaching team leader David Sindayigaya organized a "shock" patrol in the same area with the Rwandan Development Board (RDB) and they found 38 more snares. Tomorrow we are going to do the same patrol in the surrounding area.
Yesterday I observed some interesting dynamics in Kuryama's group which made me think. Silverback Vuba, notoriously the second silverback of the group, was showing off his physical power to the females with strong and frequent displays to them.
With primatologist Felix Ndagijimana being named the first Rwandan director of the Karisoke Research Center yesterday (on what would have been Dian Fossey’s 80th birthday), it is fitting to follow up with another achievement in capacity building this week. Deo Tuyisingize, the Fossey Fund’s Karisoke Biodiversity Program manager, will be traveling to Chicago, IL, for a small mammal training period at the Chicago Field Museum for the months of February and March.
Today we witnessed a brief interaction between Kuryama’s gorilla group and the lone silverback Giraneza. Kuryama’s group is one of nine groups we monitor daily from the Karisoke Research Center. We also record encounters with lone silverbacks, though we are not able to follow them individually. Giraneza is one of several lone silverbacks we run into from time to time, so he is fairly well known to us.
Ntambara's group, one of the nine mountain gorilla groups we follow daily from the Karisoke Research Center, reached the top of Visoke volcano today, at very high altitude. They are right on the slope of the crater lake, which makes it difficult for our trackers to go close, but the landscape is beautiful, even magical in scope.
Dr. Dian Fossey’s love for the Christmas season was well known by colleagues and friends here in Rwanda. Hanging a Christmas wreath that read “Howdy” on her cabin door, she opened up her home in the Virunga rainforest every December to host an elaborate Christmas party for her fellow researchers, field staff and their families.
On Tuesday, one-and-a-half-year-old infant Urahirwa from Ntambara' s group was found to be lethargic, not moving much and, worst of all, not suckling. Mother Kubaka was carrying the infant on her back. Urahirwa had a severe skin lesion around her nose and mouth. She had been fine on Sunday, and on Monday the group was not monitored because the gorillas were in a deep ravine on the slope of Mt. Visoke.
Tomorrow I have a long ride back to Kigali to catch the first of three flights to get home. I’m sad to be leaving Africa, my second home! Although this trip has been short it was certainly full of excitement. Animals, travel and Africa are my passions, so this trip did not disappoint.
On Dec. 7, Karisoke field staff observed subgrouping again in Pablo group. Silverbacks Gicurasi and Cantsbee again instigated the split, with 26 individuals following Gicurasi and 19 following Cantsbee. Our trackers were unable to locate all of the night nests that day and believed that the group did not nest together. The groups were 500 meters apart when a researcher and the trackers arrived that morning and they continued their separation for six days.
Sabyinyo lodge has a vegetarian soup for lunch and supper and two main course options, one of which is vegetarian. The food has been fantastic! I’m sure all the calories I burned off trekking will be made up by the delicious food!
Here is a little info to start off Day Two. The mountain gorillas are in the Virunga Mountains in Rwanda. These mountains have eight major volcanic peaks. The six in the middle are extinct and the other two remain active, with notable eruptions in 1912, 1938, 1948, sometime in the 70’s and 2002. Conservation protects the mountains’ alpine vegetation as well as wildlife including the gorillas and golden monkeys.
(This is the second of a five-part series.) I’m typing in the dining room while enjoying a glass of delicious white wine. There is a roaring fire behind me keeping me toasty. Sabyinyo Gorilla Lodge gives money back to the community. The lodge is beautiful and run by a husband and wife, Nars and Tracey. Nars is from South Africa and Tracey is from Zimbabwe. They are very friendly and kind. My cabin is beautiful with a fireplace, bathtub and separate shower, change room, etc.
Kathleen C. Rautiainen of Canada won the drawing for a free gorilla trek, donated by Fossey Fund supporter Baobab Expeditions, when she registered for our new website last year. Our only condition when we awarded the prize: That the winner send us notes that we could share with the rest of you on our blog. Here are some highlights from her Dec. 3-6 trek, starting with her thoughts on the plane to Africa:
Lone silverback Gwiza, who has been relentlessly pursuing Titus group for two weeks (attempting to either acquire female "Fat" or join the group) has now vanished. The Fossey Fund Karisoke trackers discovered his night nest amidst the group’s on Thursday morning, but since then they have been unable to locate him. Interestingly, the Titus group’s dominant silverback Rano showed very little interest in Fat prior to Gwiza’s interaction with the group and has not been observed copulating with the female in a very long time.
1. Ensure our anti-poaching patrols work 365 days a year in 2012.
This year some of the gorilla groups we monitor spent long amounts of time outside the protected park, feeding on seasonal bamboo and other plants at the lower altitudes. Without the money raised from adoptions, we would not have been able to protect them around the clock as they wandered around.
Good news! Today female mountain gorilla Umusatsi (27 years old) and her son Rwema were finally back in their group (Kuryama’s). Even their nests were found there, meaning that they rejoined the group sometime yesterday evening. This discovery came at a good time, as we were organizing a large patrol to look for them and greatly concerned about their well being.
After the 17th day of interaction between Gwiza and the Titus group of gorillas, led by silverback Rano for the past two years, the situation’s outcome remains unclear. According to the Fossey Fund’s Gorilla Program Manager Veronica Vecellio, many different scenarios could unfold. The gorillas have already begun to group together and then regroup, resulting in several different formations as both Gwiza and Rano have assumed the role of lead silverback.
The Fossey Fund has just learned of the passing of Mwami Alexandre Muhindo Mukosasenge II, an important figure in conservation in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, with whom we have worked for many years. Mwami Mukosasenge was a leading figure in the creation of community nature reserves in Congo and helped lead their association, the Union of Associations for Gorilla Conservation and Community Development (UGADEC).
On Saturday, lone silverback Gwiza was still interacting with Titus's group (for the seventh day in a row). Karisoke Research Center tracker John Ndayamba reports that Gwiza followed the group all day, sometimes 5-10 meters away, sometimes 30-40 meters. Trackers found his nest in the morning and it was clear that he had slept within the group. Gwiza displayed four times towards Rano, but no real aggression was observed. Rano ignored the displays completely.
It’s day six of Gwiza’s interaction with Titus’s group, and the Fossey Fund’s Karisoke Research Center field staff are starting to bet on whether he will ever leave or stay. It seems that the last say will belong to female Fat (Ubufatanye), who doesn’t yet seem to have made up her mind about what to do. Gwiza spent the night with the others. During the daytime Fat is sometimes with Gwiza 30 to 50 meters from the group but she then moves back toward the group, followed by Gwiza. All the gorillas must be exhausted, as they walk long distances every day – today three kilometers up and down hill from Bikereri to the Basumba area.
We were saddened to learn of the extinction of the African western black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis longipes) last week, as announced by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It was also reported that two other types of rhinos were close to the end as well.
At the Fossey Fund we fight every day to prevent the extinction of endangered gorillas, and although we know many species are fighting for survival, it is still a shock to absorb news like this.
Ugenda’s group is now joining the other gorillas in their out-of-park excursions. But today, the gorillas encountered something outside of their protected forest that sent them running for the hills. Fossey Fund researcher Winnie Eckardt, PhD. and the Fund’s Karisoke Research Center field staff think that the group may have stumbled upon a swarm of bees.
The infant just born in Urugamba's group has been observed to be a male. Mother Bishushwe is taking good care of him, holding him carefully and protecting him from the cold. This is Bishushwe's sixth offspring, so she is very experienced.
Fossey Fund researcher Winnie Eckardt, Ph.D. joined the Karisoke Research Center trackers to observe Kuryama’s group today as they were again herded back into the park. The group slept within the borders of the park, albeit quite close to the edge, and immediately exited the park after leaving their night nests. Umusatsi and Rwema were not with the group again today and their night nests were not among the other group members’ nests. When Dr. Eckardt reached the group this morning, the gorillas were already 300 meters from the park border.
The Fossey Fund field staff is very happy that both of the dispersed females and their infants rejoined Kuryama’s group this morning. The group spent the night outside of the park once again, but were herded back in promptly after the trackers arrived in the field. Umutekano and her infant, Dukore, rejoined the group at 10:30 a.m. Although dominant silverback Kirahure initially reacted with aggression toward the dispersed female, the behavior was brief and her infant soon joined the other youngsters in the group for a play session.
Today Kuryama’s group was still outside the park, and trackers “herded” them back into the park borders again. This time it took more than three hours, with trackers forming a line to prevent the gorillas from moving downhill, and lots of waiting as the gorillas slowly made their way up to the park. Titus group, which had also ranged out the park recently, was not located at all today, and apparently are in the dense bamboo area of Cundura hill, crossing the trail of another group and making tracking difficult.
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.
It’s with great sadness that I am writing to inform you that our colleague Jean Damascene Kamufozi, a member of the Karisoke Research Center's anti-poaching team and one of the longest serving Fossey Fund staff members, passed away this morning, Nov. 9, at Ruhengeri Hospital.
Two interactions took place today in the bamboo zone.
The first was with Ntambara’s group and Umubano’s group (one of the groups used for tourism). Two silverbacks from Ntambara’s group exchanged many displays with the males from Umubano’s group. Surprisingly, dominant silverback Ntambara was not seen today. The nest count shows that the group was complete during the night, but he may have walked far from his group in the morning.
Last night, the Titus group of gorillas slept outside of the Volcanoes National Park for the second time in the history of the Fossey Fund’s Karisoke Research Center monitoring. The group was persistent in their desire to range outside of park borders yesterday and trackers organized to “push” the gorillas back into the park twice during the day.
The Fossey Fund field staff is happy to report that all of the gorillas that were missing from Pablo’s group yesterday were found safe and sound amidst the group today. Irakoze, the adult male who attempted to re-enter Pablo group yesterday morning (meeting resistance from silverback Musilikale and receiving a bite from dominant male Cantsbee) is still in the group, where it appears he will remain.
Winnie Eckardt, Ph.D., a researcher for the Fossey Fund's Karisoke Research Center, was shocked to discover blackback Irakoze, who has not been seen for almost three months, amidst Pablo’s group during her data collection session in the Mapfundo area of the bamboo zone this morning. Eleven-year-old Irakoze was one of the three bachelors that linked up and left the group on August 16th, vanishing without a trace.
After several days of dramatic interaction between lone silverback Tuyizere and the Titus gorillas, it all came to a head yesterday evening when the entire group turned on the loner, screaming and mounting an all out physical attack.
Dominant silverback Rano had maintained his protective stance between Tuyizere and his group members throughout the day.
Tuyizere, a 17-year-old lone silverback that has not been seen since February of this year, made a dramatic appearance on Cundura hill today. Bwenge's and Isabukuru's group were ranging close by at the top of the hill (but never made visual contact), with Fossey Fund researcher Stacy Rosebaum, Ph.D. and trackers in tow.
After a month of cold temperatures, frequent rains and thick mist on Kimbagira, the 45 gorillas of Pablo group have finally moved down into the bamboo zone. It was a beautiful day for their arrival into the lower altitudes of the park; the sun shone brightly and the gorillas appeared to relish the warmer weather.
No, we aren’t worried that you will hand a trick-or-treating orangutan an unhealthy snack. We just want you to be sure to choose candy that’s made by companies that participate in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). This is an international organization that works to develop sustainable ways to produce this popular ingredient found in candy, cookies, cosmetics, and lots of other products.
Today’s intervention to remove a snare from 1-and-1/2-year-old male infant Gasore was a success. The intervention team was comprised of Karisoke researcher Winnie Eckardt, PhD.; Drs. Jean-Felix Kinani and Jan Ramer of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project; Dr. Elizabeth Nyirakaragire and three trackers from the Rwanda Development Board; and seven Fossey Fund Karisoke Research Center trackers.
Continuing their roaming pattern, the Titus group was again outside of the Virunga National Park boundaries when Veronica Vecellio, Fossey Fund’s Karisoke Gorilla Program Manager, and trackers arrived bright and early this morning. Vecellio reported that the group was moving east, “possibly to find an area where they can go out undisturbed.”
This morning an infant in Bwenge’s group was found with a snare rope around his leg. The infant, Gasore (son of Maggie), must have gotten caught in the snare either last night or earlier this morning, because when our Karisoke trackers arrived in the morning, he was already dragging the rope along, which is attached to his right ankle.
Karisoke researcher Stacy Rosenbaum brought great news down from the mountain today: Our elderly silverback Cantsbee seems to be just fine, feeding and behaving normally again. When the field team reached Pablo's group this morning, Cantsbee was in a new, leafy day nest about 200-250 meters up from where Dr. Eckardt’s team had left them yesterday. The 32-year-old silverback had evidently risen from his night nest and traveled up the slopes to meet the rest of his group yesterday evening.
The gorillas of Titus group, who have been spending more time outside of the park lately, were successfully herded back into their protected forest yesterday evening by the Fossey Fund’s Karisoke Research Center field staff. After the gorillas made nests and spent the night in the farmland that borders the park three nights ago, staff from the Rwanda Development Board, the Fossey Fund and the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) met in Kinigi to discuss their game plan for responding to this new development.
Born in November 1978 and famously named by Dian Fossey, Cantsbee is the oldest mountain gorilla monitored by the Karisoke Research Center at 32 years old. The dominant silverback is beginning to show signs of his age and remained in his night nest throughout the entire day today. This behavior is clearly a cause for concern for all who have grown to love this benevolent leader of Pablo group (named after late silverback Pablo).
For the first time in their memory, the Karisoke Research Center’s field staff who monitor mountain gorillas have observed an entire gorilla group sleeping outside of Volcanoes National Park. Titus's group, composed of five males and two females, began to spend a significant amount of time outside of the park boundaries last week.
I had the great pleasure recently of taking 80 local fifth grade students on a guided tour of the forest in Volcanoes National Park. Because of their age I couldn't take them to see the gorillas, but they saw the vegetation in the park, learned what gorillas eat, saw other animals or their droppings, and visited Lake Ngezi inside the park, among other things. The park guides helped conduct the tour.
I am sorry to again report sad news. This afternoon trackers found elderly female Kubyina’s dead body, in the same area where her traces were seen for the last time on Sept. 8. A member of Ugenda’s group, she was over 30 years old.
We are saddened to report that our trackers at Karisoke found elderly mountain gorilla Ginseng dead this morning. Her body is being carried down the mountain now by trackers and porters, so a necropsy can be performed by MGVP and park veterinarians.
Bwenge’s gorilla group has had a tough time of it lately, as two individuals have required a medical intervention within the last month. Staff from the Fossey Fund’s Karisoke Research Center, the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) and the Rwandan Development Board (RDB) conducted an intervention Tuesday on Ginseng, a 31-year-old female mountain gorilla. Ginseng has been ranging peripherally from the group for some time now, and periodically during the last several weeks, she has been traveling alone. This unusual behavior has recently been observed in several other females, including Umusatsi, Kubyina and Kwiruka. On Oct.
The Fossey Fund is very pleased that the new men’s ward at the Bisate Clinic is now complete and open for new patients! The new ward provides a private room for male children and another for male adults, as well as a pharmacy and an injection room.
Congratulations to our partner Zoo Atlanta, which just received the prestigious Bean Award for its outstanding gorilla program. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums gives this award to member programs that have demonstrated excellence in reproductive success, research, conservation, husbandry and management. The award was announced at the AZA’s recent annual conference, held at Zoo Atlanta.
I am very pleased to tell you that Tara Stoinski, Ph.D. has been named to the 2012 Indianapolis Prize Nominating Committee, a dynamic and knowledgeable group of individuals who are all dedicated to the welfare of the Earth’s wildlife and wild places. Tara, a primatologist, is the Fossey Fund’s Pat and Forest McGrath Chair of Research and Conservation.
Today I visited Ugenda’s group to see how infant Igitangaza is recovering after the injuries caused by an unidentified lone silverback 10 days ago who intruded into Bwenge’s group (see Sept. 20 post). As the 3-and-1/2-year-old tried to follow her mother Inziza, she was bitten by the silverback, resulting in the loss of one finger and other wounds on her right hand.
I’m delighted to report that you can now help save gorillas and other endangered species when you buy stamps at the post office or order stamps online! The “Save Vanishing Species Stamp” went on sale this month, for a price just above the usual cost of postage. The extra proceeds help fund the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife Without Borders Multinational Species Conservation Funds. These important funds support conservation efforts that help great apes, elephants, rhinos, tigers and marine turtles survive.
Late Saturday morning, the Fossey Fund’s Karisoke Research Center trackers Fidele Habimana, Vincent Gisanabagabo and Lambert Nshimiyimana were winding down their peaceful morning of observation and monitoring in Ugenda’s group, when a brief but severe interaction erupted. Inziza, a 17-year-old female, and her infant were trailing behind their group when an unidentified lone silverback burst onto the tranquil scene near the Susa River.
Twenty-year-old female Ntobo appeared very weak and lethargic when our Karisoke trackers arrived in Bwenge’s group today. Veronica Vecellio, the Fossey Fund’s Gorilla program coordinator reported that Ntobo’s breathing was extremely labored and she was panting considerably.
“Helping people, saving gorillas” isn’t just a motto. We are devoted to the preservation of not only the gorillas, but also their land and the people they share it with. Here are 10 reasons why you should become a member of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International today: 1. Help fund crucial anti-poaching patrols 365 days a year. 2. Support community development programs for the people devastated by war and poverty in the areas bordering gorilla habitats in Rwanda and the Congo.
Today and yesterday the trackers from Kuryama’s group met the lone silverback Twizere. Today he was on the trail of Kuryama’s group, with whom he interacted yesterday. The interaction was relatively easy and ended up very quickly when silverback Vuba made several displays, forcing Twizere to move away.
The largest group of mountain gorillas, Pablo’s group, is facing important changes.
The latest event happened on Aug. 21, when female Nyandwi transferred to Inshuti’s group during an interaction between the two groups. She is 8, the age when gorilla females reach sexual maturity and look for the best mating opportunities, which may involve group change.
Special search teams have returned after a day of looking for silverbacks Twihangane and Gushimira and blackback Irakoze, but the three males missing from Pablo’s group were not found. Today two trackers from the team that follows Pablo’s group, two anti-poaching trackers and 11 persons from the Rwandan parks authority (Rwandan Development Board ) had divided into four teams to search extensively for any traces of the males. They started out from the August 16 night nesting site, which included the nests of the three males.
Very sad news from Ugenda’s group this morning. Shyirambere, Kubyina’s infant, was found dead close to the nest site where the group had spent the night. When the trackers reached the group the gorillas were still around the infant’s body. In particular, the two silverbacks Ugenda and Wageni were resting within a few meters looking at him. They charged and screamed at the trackers, not allowing them to get any closer.
We are following the progress of the new mountain gorilla orphan with great interest. The new infant is a female, named Ihirwe. Ihirwe means “luck” in Kinyarwanda and certainly expresses our wish for her. She was confiscated from poachers on August 7 and brought to the facility operated in Kinigi in partnership with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP).
I recently completed the field research for my Ph.D. dissertation on how the socio-sexual behaviors of female mountain gorillas correlate with their hormones, which I discussed in my first blog on May 8, 2011. I would like to thank the Leakey Foundation’s Baldwin Fellowship Program and other donors for their support of my project, and give you all some idea of what the field work was like.
Things are going amazingly well with the orphaned gorillas at the GRACE rescue center in DR Congo, following the arrival of the six from Rwanda over the weekend. Yesterday, staff at GRACE put the new six and four of the older ones who were already there next door to each other in the nighthouse (i.e. separated only by bars). That went well, and it was decided to let female Pinga directly in to the group of four. That went very well.
This weekend we saw an amazing international collaboration among countries, nonprofit organizations, communities and other entities, all coming together to help move six rescued Grauer’s gorillas from temporary facilities in Rwanda to the new GRACE gorilla rescue center in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A long time in the planning, the move involved transporting the gorillas (who are victims of poaching) by road from Kinigi, Rwanda, to Goma, DR Congo.
My 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.
I am Ildephonse Munyarugero, manager of the Fossey Fund's Ecosystem Health and Community Development Program in Rwanda, a program that seeks to create a healthy environment for both people and gorillas by supporting, among other projects, rural clinics. The Bisate Clinic has been our main focus since 2002. We have made many improvements in this facility, and I am happy to report on one more that is well underway.
Isabukuru's and Kuryama's groups engaged in a series of four interactions beginning at the end of May. Clearly, Isabukuru was interested in getting females from Kuryama's group. Silverback Kuryama, weak and injured after the first interaction, gradually moved out of his group.
We are very happy to welcome Winnie Eckardt, Ph.D., back to Karisoke this spring as our Judith Harris and Robert Singer, M.D., postdoctoral fellow. Winnie is an old friend to Karisoke and the Fossey Fund.
The seventh annual Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony was held in Kinigi on Saturday, June 18. This year the theme was "Community development for sustained conservation." Kwita Izina has become a major celebration, organized by the Rwandan Development Board (RDB). It was adapted from a traditional Rwandan ceremony for naming children.
We are very excited today to be publishing the results of a study showing that the type of "extreme" conservation efforts undertaken to save the mountain gorillas are resulting in positive population growth. These intensive methods are used among the habituated portion of the Virunga mountain gorilla population, such as by the Fossey Fund's Karisoke Research Center, the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, and the Rwandan park authorities…
Here are some more details about our difficult but finally successful attempt on Sunday May 29 to free infant Imfura from a snare rope that had been attached to his right leg since the previous Tuesday. After the second unsuccessful attempt (see previous blogs), we had decided to rest for a day before hiking to Pablo's group for another attempt.
I have very good news to report today from the field. Our team was able to remove the snare rope from infant Imfura's leg that had caused him so much pain (see previous blog). The intervention was difficult and previous attempts were not successful due to agression from the gorilla group, rain and bad visibility.
This morning staff from the Karisoke Research Center, the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) and the park authority (Rwandan Development Board, RDB) went to Pablo's group ready for a possible intervention to free the infant Imfura from a snare in which he was caught yesterday.
As Deputy Director of the Karisoke Research Center, helping to manage many exciting programs, I often have an opportunity to get out of the office and join the field staff as they study and protect gorillas in the forest. For my first blog I'd like to tell you about one of these occasions.
I am constantly impressed by the creativity of people all over the world who care about gorillas and want to help them survive. This past week I learned that Phillip Sheppard, one of the final contestants on "Survivor: Redemption Island," is using his fame to help our cause, by encouraging his fans to contribute to the Fossey Fund.
I'm Sosthene Habumuremyi, a graduate student conducting field research at the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda – supported in part by the Leakey Foundation Baldwin Fellowship Program – and I'm very pleased to be able to share some of my interests with you in my first blog for the Fossey Fund.
I am Joseph Karama, the Karisoke Research Center's Conservation Education Program Manager. I make conservation education available to primary and secondary students and other members of the communities near Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and to visiting university students.
Like other first-time Fossey Fund bloggers I'm happy to introduce myself with some good news for everyone concerned with the future of primates in the wild. My title is the Pat and Forest McGrath Chair of Research and Conservation. Simply put, I'm a primatologist who studies gorillas in the wild, and I also work with gorillas at Zoo Atlanta. My good news is that my fellow scientists have found evidence confirming that our long-term studies in the field not only add to our knowledge but also help protect wildlife populations.
Lubutu Uhuru, our newest orphan, continues to make progress. Nobody knows exactly how long he was held captive by the poachers before arriving to start a new life under our care, but, today, as I happily lay on the floor in the UGADEC garden, watching him swinging and climbing 10 meters up in the trees before making a nest, I couldn't help but wonder just how long has it been since he not only climbed trees, but felt so safe and secure.
Some of you may wonder how a gorilla you adopted years ago is doing now. As the coordinator of Karisoke's gorilla research program I am pleased to get to know each of the more than 120 mountain gorillas we monitor daily, each one with an individual personality and life story.
As Gorilla Rehabilitation Manager at GRACE, one of my most important duties is to care for each newly confiscated gorilla until it is healthy enough to be introduced to the other gorillas at GRACE and live independently within the group.
Last week I wrote that we had received word that another gorilla infant had been confiscated from poachers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where unfortunately the illegal trafficking in gorillas appears to be on the increase. Friday, Lubutu, named after the area in which he was found, arrived safely in Goma after a long journey by land and air.
We are just getting word from our field folks in Congo of another orphaned gorilla that has been confiscated from poachers. We believe it to be a Grauer's gorilla because of the area in Walikale where it was confiscated, through the good work of our partners, ICCN, the Congolese wildlife authorities.
Traveling up towards the volcanoes which are home to the mountain gorillas the higher altitude is evident as are the recent rains. Rain is never far away in this region and I hope it will hold off as we visit Bisate. The paved road ends and we bump our way over the volcanic rock road into the village.
The Fossey Fund's Africa staff welcomed more than 23 staff and guests to its Africa HQ in Kigali, Rwanda last week. The official board visit began with a garden party reception at the Fund's official residence in Kigali.
The activity level here at the Fossey Fund headquarters in Atlanta, Ga., is intense as we and our Africa staff colleagues prepare for a board of trustees meeting in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
As they await transfer to the GRACE gorilla rescue center in Congo, I am told that the six orphaned gorillas in temporary facility in Kinigi, Rwanda, are getting large, lazy and a bit bored. They are literally outgrowing the place and are ready to move to GRACE, where we will begin to "de-habituate" them from their human caregivers and prepare them for eventual release to the wild.
It is incompatible with the Park's status and ignores the brave efforts by Park guards to safeguard this World Heritage site. The Fossey Fund is disturbed by the news that oil companies applied to enter Virunga National Park, a World Heritage Site, hard on the heels of the news that several park guards were killed in recent weeks.
Staff at the GRACE center have reported the worst storms in more than five years. Power is out and may not be back for a week so communications are difficult. Although many trees were blown down, the gorilla night quarters and fence did not take any direct hits so the gorillas are doing fine.
A story on MSNBC.com and in other media today shows photos of a western lowland gorilla at the Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in England (run by the Aspinall Foundation) who seems to be better than usual at walking upright (on his hind legs).
The internet is our main resource in terms of communicating with field staff and sending interesting and sometimes challenging stories about the young orphan gorillas in our care. Overnight I received great photos of the six gorillas in temporary quarters in Kinigi, Rwanda, and the youngest of all an infant called Kyasa who is in Goma, DRC
Because the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund's International headquarters are in Atlanta, GA, we have a 6-hour time difference between here and our staff in Africa. As I spend the time each day sending and receiving dozens of messages, documents and sometimes photos, via the internet I gain a new appreciation for Dian Fossey and her life at the Karisoke Research Center, Rwanda.
In the village of Kasugho, about 5 hours by road from Butembo, students at the Tayna Center for Conservation Biology (TCCB) are getting ready to present their research and graduate in February. 150 students have completed their full course of studies, among them 30 women.
I'm Clare Richardson, President and CEO of the Fossey Fund. This new blog will have entries from our many staff based in Africa, as well as from me. Although I am based at our U.S. headquarters in Atlanta, I travel frequently to our programs in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.