Congo gorillas survive war, survey finds higher count than expected
Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International release
September 30, 2005
New scientific surveys by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have revealed some encouraging news about the status of the “eastern lowland” gorilla, known more properly as Grauer’s gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri).
Based on its latest research with its Congolese partners — the DRC wildlife authority (ICCN, Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature) and a federation of community-based reserves (UGADEC, Union for the Conservation of Gorillas and Development in Eastern DRC) — the Fossey Fund now estimates that Grauer’s gorilla, which exists only in eastern DRC, ranges from a population of 5,500 to some 28,000 individuals, occupying an area of about 21,000 square kilometers. While the Fund’s recent analyses indicate that at least 24 percent of this gorilla’s range was lost between 1959 and 2005, Grauer’s gorilla has continued to survive throughout long periods of civil war.
This recent research also indicates that earlier surveys appear to have missed or underestimated important priority areas for this gorilla’s overall distribution. This demonstrates clear and present opportunities for protecting Grauer’s gorilla, through the Fossey Fund’s continued support for national parks and community-managed nature reserves in this region.
The Fossey Fund has played a primary role in this regard, beginning its conservation program in the area in 2001. The Fund’s first major project in the region was the Tayna Gorilla Reserve, a community-based reserve of 900 km2 initiated by local residents and now recognized as an official protected area by the DRC national government. By 2002, another seven communities, modeling their efforts after Tayna, joined together to form UGADEC. In 2003, the Fossey Fund took on a lead role in a program to rehabilitate Maiko National Park, an important protected area in this region, in partnership with Conservation International, which provides funding from the USAID CARPE program and from its own funding agency, the Global Conservation Fund.
Gorillas use tools – photo documentation September 29, 2005
For the first time ever, scientists have observed and photographed wild gorillas using tools, in one instance employing a stick to test the depth of a pool before wading into it, according to a study by the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and other organizations. Up to this point, all other species of great apes, including chimpanzees and orangutans, have been observed using tools in the wild, but never gorillas.
Gabon sets aside 10 percent of country as protected parks
An unprecedented 10 percent of nation’s land mass is set aside for gorillas, elephants and chimps. In a move that sets a new standard in African conservation, the nation of Gabon, which contains some of the most pristine tropical rainforests on earth, announced today that it will set aside 10 percent of its land mass for a system of national parks. Up to this point, Gabon had no national park system. The Gabonese government has been working closely with The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) on conservation issues for the past ten years. The announcement is a major victory for Africa’s wildlife.
The Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced today that a new international agreement signed last week in the Democratic Republic of Congo will play a key role in safeguarding and improving populations of the world’s great apes, including gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans.
Poverty decimates great apes
Fewer than 250 wild Sumatran orangutans may exist in fifty years, their habitat is disappearing and the devastation of the Asian tsunami has accelerated the rate of destruction. This is among the findings being announced at the launch of the first World Atlas of Great Apes and their Conservation today (1st September 2005) by the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, which reveals that it is not just humans that will benefit from a campaign to make poverty history’. For the other 6 species of great ape the eastern and western gorilla, chimpanzee, bonobo, Sumatran and Bornean orangutan it could literally save them from the cooking pot.
A combination of natural and man-made threats is killing gorillas and chimpanzees in Central Africa, and experts say $30 million is needed for special programs to save some of mankind’s closest relatives from disappearing.
On Sept. 6, 2005, Fossey Fund staff attended the GRASP (Great Ape Survival Project, United Nations Environmental Programme) conference in Kinshasa, DRC (first Intergovernmental Meeting on Great Apes and first GRASP Council Meeting) and made available to the GRASP Scientific Commission these new findings. This will enable GRASP and its conservation partners (including the Fossey Fund) to prioritize conservation initiatives for African great apes throughout the host-countries where they are found. More information on these findings can be viewed at www.gorillafund.org.
The Atlanta-based Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International is dedicated to the conservation and protection of gorillas and their habitats in Africa, through research, conservation action, education and partnerships. Founded by Dian Fossey as the Digit Fund and renamed after her death, DFGFI also operates the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda, and maintains a staff of scientists, trackers and anti-poaching patrols in the Volcanoes National Park. DFGFI also operates a conservation action outreach plan, working in conjunction with innovative community-based preserves in the Democratic Republic of Congo, establishing a GIS center at the National University of Rwanda, and participating in other critical conservation and community projects. For more information about DFGFI, call (800) 851-0203, or visit the Web site at www.gorillafund.org.
This is a press release from Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.