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hope for the future

  • Intro
  • Population Increase
  • Habitat Preservation
  • Eco-Tourism
  • Law Enforcement
  • Education
  • Organizations
  • Please Help

The year 2002 marked the 100th year since the mountain gorilla was first discovered and scientifically identified as a distinct subspecies of gorilla. year of the gorilla 2009 posterAlthough great challenges continue to threaten the gorillas, organizations and individual people around the world are combining their efforts to help ensure the survival of this precious species. There are numerous reasons to be optimistic. Perhaps the biggest reason is awareness. After the worldwide publicity of the July 2007 massacre in DR Congo, international conservation organizations joined hands to declare
2009 the Year of the Gorilla.

Census results indicate a continued steady increase in the population of mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The first complete census was conducted in 1997. The population increased 12% by 2007, representing a 1% annual growth rate. Although this is indicative of a reasonably healthy and well-protected population, researchers believe that gorilla populations are capable of growing at 3-4% under optimal conditions.

The Virungas population, comprised of gorillas from 3 national parks in 3 countries, has seen the number of animals fluctuate over the years. The population decreased between 1960 and 1981 mainly due to poaching and habitat loss. Thanks in part to Dian Fossey, the numbers climbed in 1989 and then again in 2003, before leveling off in 2007. Given the population chartfact that this area has been besieged by violence and disease resulting from ongoing wars, this can be considered good news. Furthermore, it was found that the group of gorillas that were the victim of the July 2007 massacre is recovering. The Rugendo family is up to nine members, up from five in the last count. The largest family is the Kabirizi Family, with 33 individuals including 5 newborns.

It is believed that the Virungas area has a natural density of about 450 gorillas. This is because the total protected area of the Virunga Mountains is only around 780 sq km and is surrounded by dense agricultural land. That leaves the current population of 380 with room to grow. Hopefully with proper management the population will again see a steady increase and approach the potential number of 450.

The future of the gorillas is most dependent on the protection and survival of the forests in which they live. Because the parks are little islands tree planting programof wilderness surrounded by crowded areas with lots of farmland, the challenges facing the species are complicated. There is no future for the parks without local support. And the local people are beginning to realize that they can get more benefits from preserving the forests than they can by clearing them for farmland. Continued education and involvement of the local population, combined with enforcement of existing laws, will ensure that the gorillas will always have a home.

Perhaps most important in the struggle to preserve the forests are new technologies designed to replace traditional firewood and charcoal. One of these is solar ovens, which use the power of the aerial view of kiln burningsun to cook and boil water. These can either be made locally with cheap materials, or purchased with the help of aid organizations. Fuel briquettes are a low cost, locally made fuel for cooking and heating that offer another alternative. They are made from weeds, leaves, sawdust, rice husks and scrap paper. The process of making them involves:

  1. collecting the materials
  2. pounding or grinding them
  3. mixing the materials with water
  4. allowing the mash to sit for a period of time
  5. pressing the mash into a fuel briquette using a specially designed press
  6. allowing the briquettes to dry
  7. burning the fuel briquettes exactly as one would burn firewood or charcoal

Gorilla eco-tourism has played a major role in the recent success at stabilizing the populations. This has brought much needed revenue into this impoverished region, which has led to some innovative programs created by UWA, ORTPN, and to some degree ICCN, that benefit the local populations:

  • Involve local communities: local representatives are encouraged to participate in park management decisions.
  • Revenue sharing: a portion of tourism revenue is given to neighboring communities for development projects.
  • Develop infrastructure for local communities: the park helps build and maintain local roads as well as water pipelines from sources inside the park.
  • Regulated harvesting of forest resources: local farmers are allowed into the forest periodically to harvest things such as bamboo and honey on a limited basis.
  • Creating jobs: the parks directly employ local people.
  • Generating auxiliary income: tourists spend money on hotels, restaurants, arts and crafts and other services in the local communities.
  • Cross border communication: managers from the three countries’ national parks hold occasional workshops and meetings to discuss common problems and challenges.

Eco-tourism also brings risks to the gorillas that need to be mitigated. To further limit the chance of humans passing diseases on to gorillas, new policies that strictly control tourists may be needed. Training and monitoring of guides could be improved to keep tourists the required tourists wearing masks7 meters away and to watch for tourists that may be ill. Medical screening or vaccinations could become mandatory for visitors wishing to see gorillas. Without appropriate safeguards, it is possible that well-meaning tourists who believe they are supporting gorilla conservation will unwittingly contribute to their decline.

Despite the risk of infection, tourism is essential in creating the economic incentives that allow for gorilla protection. Banning it would most likely lead to the extinction of mountain gorillas in their natural habitats.

Credit must be given to the dedicated anti-poaching and forest preservation efforts by national park authorities, especially the ORTPN in Rwanda and the UWA in Uganda.

But it has been the heroic efforts on the part of the rangers of the ICCN in the DR Congo that deserve special mention. Not only have they worked diligently protect the park from poachers, charcoal producers, and incursions by armed militias, they have done this while receiving little rangers destroy charcoal kilnor no pay for extended periods of time. They have also faced incredible danger; some 150 of them have died in eastern DR Congo in the line of duty since 2000. Increased political stability will help the rangers more effectively manage and protect the park.

Mountain gorillas are legally protected in the three countries where they live. Laws cover poaching, illegal trade in the animals, and illegal habitat destruction. Follow-up of the legal process through arrest and prosecution is better served in Rwanda and Uganda than in DR Congo.

The Agreement on the Conservation of Gorillas and Their Habitats, also known as the Gorilla Agreement, is an international treaty that binds the Parties to conserve gorillas in their territories. It was concluded in 2007.

Ever since Dian Fossey started studying the mountain gorillas in the late 1960s, scientists and students from institues and universities around the world have made the mountain gorilla a focus of their research. Studies have included:

- How gorilla groups are formed
- How males and females choose mates
- How infants are raised
research in the field - How the gorillas communicate

In addition to the ongoing research about mountain gorilla life, scientists are now using some of the most up-to-date scientific methods to learn even more. For example, a study is currently underway using DNA samples of gorillas' feces, in order to learn the exact paternity for each new infant born in a gorilla group. Scientists are also attempting to classify all of the plants in the forests, upon which the gorillas and other species rely for food.

While conservation activities have contributed to the stability of gorilla populations, this could change quickly due to the current insecurity and instability in eastern DR Congo, or a natural disaster such a major volcanic eruption. Constant vigilance is needed to ensure mountain gorillas’ survival.

igorilla.org has chosen the Gorilla Doctors as its sole beneficiary of donations. The Gorilla Doctors has been operating in Africa since 1986 and began a partnership with UC Davis in April 2009. Please donate any amount that is comfortable for you. It would be appreciated if you could state that your donation is in honor of igorilla.org so that we may track our efforts.


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n. A person or organization that derives
advantage from something, especially
a trust, will, or life insurance policy.
n. The action or state of keeping careful
watch for possible danger or difficuties.
n. The state of being a father; fatherhood.
n. Short for deoxyribonucleic acid. It is
the material in almost all organisms
that carries genetic information.
v. Impose a legal or contractual obligation.
adj. Having or showing care and
conscientiousness in one's work or duties.
adj. Devoted to a particular task or purpose.
adj. Absolutely necessary, extremely important.
n. A thing that motivates or encourages
someone to do something.
adv. Of a person, not aware of the
full facts. Not done on purpose.
adj. Required or commanded by authority; obligatory.
v. To make less serious, severe, or painful.
300 sq miles
v. To surroundand harass with hostile
forces.To crowd around.
v. To vary irregularly. To rise and
fall as if in waves; undulate
rangers on patrol
A team of rangers after 5 days on patrol in the forest.
Photo courtesy of gorillacd.org
aerial view of kiln burning
Hopefully these new technologies will make this sight a thing of the past.
Photo courtesy of gorillacd.org
research in the field
Park rangers train others and learn about gorilla behavior daily while out in the
field. This student is learning how to identify different gorillas based on their
noseprints. Photo courtesy of gorillacd.org
All of the countries where either lowland or mountain gorillas
live signed the agreement. These include the Central African
Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of
Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda.
arrest of charcoal producers
A lack of opportunities force locals to illegally produce charcoal. Park rangers
are constantly on patrol to protect the forest. Photo courtesy of gorillacd.org
poachers caught with elephant tusks
These poachers were caught with tusks freshly cut out of an illegally killed
elephant. Photo courtesy of gorillacd.org
Organizations that participated: Convention on the Conservation
of Migratory Species of Wild Animals
; Great Apes Survival
; World Association of Zoos and Aquariums; and
the Jane Goodall Institute.
year of the gorilla 2009 poster
Go to www.yog2009.org for more information
rangers destroy charcoal kiln
Park rangers destroy many kilns such as this one. Unfortunately, more are
being built every day. Photo courtesy of gorillacd.org
The Rwandan Office of Tourism and National Parks
(Office Rwandais Du Tourisme Et Des Parcs Nationaux),
has partnered with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project
to care for orphaned gorillas.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority has hired its first local
Batwa (pygmy) tribesman as a park ranger.
building a school
With the help of the Murray Foundation, local schools are being built thanks to
an influx of tourist dollars. Photo courtesy of gorillacd.org
boy plays with toy gun
Local kids emulate park rangers and many want
to be one when they grow up. If they are lucky
enough to get one of these coveted jobs, they will
be relativelywell paid and a respected member of
the community. Photo courtesy of gorillacd.org
road construction
This road under construction will help farmers get
their products to market faster and cheaper and will
provide a better link to the outside world for locals.
Photo courtesy of gorillacd.org
honey production
Locals are taught hive management and hygienic harvesting methods,
which improve the quantity and quality of honey. Photo courtesy of FAO
tourists wearing masks
In a pilot program, tourists were asked to wear face masks while visiting the
gorillas. Since they only had to wear them for 1 hour, almost everyone agreed
that if it will help prevent disease transmission, they were all for it.
Photo courtesy of gorillacd.org
virunga youth alliance
The Virunga Youth Alliance was set up by park rangers of the Congolese
Wildlife Authority (Institut Congolais pour la Conservacion de la Nature) and
sponsors sports programs for young people caught up in the region's conflicts.
Photo courtesy of gorillacd.org
Bamboo is important to the local economy as it is used in
construction. It is also a favorite food of the gorilla. By
regulating and monitoring this crucial resource, ample
supplies can be ensured for all. Photo courtesy of
strongria via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
tree planting program
Reforestration is an important component in the fight to save the gorilla's
habitat. The Gorilla Organization’s tree planting campaign has planted over
one million trees throughout DR Congo and Rwanda.
Photo courtesy of The Gorilla Organization
homemade solar stove
Using cardboard and tin foil, handmade stoves can be made cheaply.
Photo courtesy of coconinoco via CC BY-NC 2.0
commercial solar stove
Commercial ovens are much more efficient but can cost up to $300 each,
so distribution is limited. Photo courtesy of London Permaculture via
cooking with briquette on a stove
A park ranger demonstrates cooking with the briquettes.
Photo courtesy of gorillacd.org
drying fuel briquettes
Greenhouses protect the briquettes from the heavy rains and allow them to
dry in 3 or 4 days. Photo courtesy of gorillacd.org
fuel briquette press
These hand powered machines squeeze the water out and compact the material
into dense briquettes. Photo courtesy of gorillacd.org
n. the number of animals a given
habitat can sustainably support.
population chart
n. an official count or survey of a population