Saving Mountain Gorillas, Rwanda

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (Fossey Fund) is dedicated to the conservation and protection of gorillas and their habitats in Africa. Committed to promoting continued research on gorillas’ threatened ecosystems and education about their relevance to the world, it assists local communities through education, health, training and economic development initiatives. This work also includes nearly 50 years of daily monitoring and protection of mountain gorilla groups in Rwanda, and more recently also in the Democratic Republic of Congo

This world-renowned long-term project strives to protect the world’s remaining mountain gorillas.  The population monitored by The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund lives in the high altitude forests of the Rwandan section of the Virunga massif, featuring 8 volcanoes, dense forests and a high concentration and diversity of endangered species and plants.  However the area is bordered by one of Africa’s densest urban populations and extreme poverty means communities often use resources from within the national park including water, wood and bushmeat.  This project will:
– increase daily monitoring and protection of mountain gorilla groups
– continue the highest level possible of information collection on the gorillas’ demography, health, ranging patterns and behaviours for use in conservation and park management, tourism visits and scientific studies
– remove snares, address direct threats to the gorillas and expand anti-poaching patrols
– help local communities benefit from conservation.

The Update

Support from EOCA has provided key support to help the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund maintain and expand its long term gorilla protection and monitoring.  Daily anti-poaching patrols have been conducted, removing snares and protecting the gorillas’ habitat from other illegal activities; identified and reported gorilla health issues as they occurred and coordinated veterinary interventions where necessary.  Scientific research has helped understand the gorillas and guided conservation measures, and education and outreach activities to local communities have expanded.  This has thus far equated to:
– 100,000 hours of direct protection in the forest and additional staff hired
– increase in the area covered by the rangers as the gorilla population has expanded their number of groups and their range
– anti poaching patrols continue to find and destroy snares: 989 in 2014, 726 in 2016 and no gorillas caught in snares in 2016!
– 15,000 hours of research data collected and 4429 hours on intensive behavioural observations
– 2 new research assistants hired
– scientific papers and studies published in the press, helping to provide key information for developing effective conservation strategies and to answer critical questions about gorilla behaviour and ecology

Final Update December 2017:
This project is now complete, and as outlined above, the project has achieved great successes and impacts on the Karisoke gorillas and their habitat. As a final note, challenges do continue for the protection of this fragile population of gorillas, but with the help of EOCA funding, approximately half the Rwandan population is now protected. Through dedicated round the clock protection, mountain gorillas are currently the only great ape that is increasing in population size: research indicates that the intensive anti-poaching activities and monitoring are responsible for this.

Image: Silverback mountain gorilla. Image credit: Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund