Update: Response to Recent Mountain Gorilla Killings

Update: Response to Recent Mountain Gorilla Killings

Three female mountain gorillas and one male silverback gorilla have been killed in the Virungas National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The bodies were discovered in the southern sector of the park by rangers from the Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN), the DRC's wildlife and protected areas authority. All four mountain gorillas were shot, but it is unclear who killed them and why.

Just over 700 mountain gorillas survive in the wild today, and none exist in captivity. For such a small population the unnecessary and indiscriminate killing of four mountain gorillas is a huge loss. The gorillas belonged to the Rugendo group that lived in the area visited often by tourists - providing valuable economic benefits for local communities.

The female gorillas killed were 'Safari', 'Neeza', and 'Mburanumwe'. The male silverback was known as 'Rugendo' and was an alpha male. Alpha males fulfill a leadership role within a group, and in their absence, the integrity of the group is often compromised. Before the killings the Rugendo group comprised 12 individuals. Six are confirmed as safe, but two gorillas, a female and an infant, are missing.

ICCN patrols have been increased within the southern sector of the park with support from the DRC army. Guard posts are being constructed to provide 24-hour surveillance of the park.

"We absolutely must take urgent action to ensure the senseless killing of mountain gorillas stops," says Dr. Helen Gichohi, President of the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). "The world-wide population is at risk."

"Just two months ago, we celebrated the increase of the gorilla population in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda," says Dr. Kwame Koranteng, Regional Representative of WWF's Eastern Africa Regional Programme Office. "Seven gorillas killed in 7 months is a horrifying statistic and a trend that cannot continue," he added.

Chief Executive of Fauna & Flora International, Mark Rose, said: "We are deeply concerned about this incident which follows more than 20 years of successful collaboration for mountain gorilla conservation. Whatever the motive underlying this tragedy, the gorillas are helpless pawns in a feud between individuals."

Earlier this year two silverback male gorillas were shot dead in the same area of the park. The perpetrators were believed to be supporters of Laurent Nkunda. The skin of one of the dead gorillas was recovered from a latrine in a nearby rebel camp. In May, a female gorilla was shot dead in the same park. Her infant is now being hand reared by the ICCN in Goma.

Post mortem examinations on the four gorillas are being carried out. The bodies will be buried near Bukima, an outpost within the park.

Further Information

The International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP) was formed in 1991 and is a partnership between Fauna & Flora International, the World Wide Fund for Nature, the African Wildlife Foundation and the protected area authorities in Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC, to conserve the threatened mountain gorillas and their forest habitat.

The goal of the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP) is to ensure the conservation of mountain gorillas and their regional afromontane forest habitat in Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC.

Formed in 1991, IGCP comprises three coalition partners: African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The partnership also incorporates the respective protected area authorities of the three countries in which IGCP works: the Office Rwandais de Tourisme et des Parcs Nationaux (ORTPN), the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN).


John Butler

African Wildlife Foundation