Fruit tree seedlings distributed to five communities

The communities living alongside Mount Tshiaberimu will benefit from new fruit trees

The communities living alongside Mount Tshiaberimu will benefit from new fruit trees

Hi, this is Jean-Claude,

The Gorilla Organization recently helped distribute passion fruit seedlings to villages surrounding Mount Tshiaberimu.

In total, 200 stems of seedlings were distributed among five different community associations. The fruit they will produce will provide an excellent source of nutrition for people living in this part of DR Congo. And, by turning the ripe fruit into juice to sell, these communities will also be able to benefit from a new source of valuable income.

What’s more, as with many of the other projects we run on the edges of the Virunga National Park, this will help to ease the pressure placed on the natural resources found inside the gorillas forest home.

In the picture above you can see a healthy, full-grown fruit tree in nearby Burusi. Let’s hope the trees planted on Mount T grow to be equally impressive!

Radio Mount Tshiaberimu set to hit the airwaves!

The team at the new radio station will help raise awareness of gorilla conservation

The team at the new radio station will help raise awareness of gorilla conservation

Hi, this is Jean-Claude,

From tomorrow (July 1st), the communities on and around Mount Tshaberimu will finally be able to listen to their own local radio station.

Over the course of 2010, several NGOs, including MISSAF Kyondo and the Gorilla Organization held talks with the district governor, the Honorable Kasereka Wanzavelere, regarding the possibility of launching a not-for-profit station to serve this part of the eastern DRC.

Now, I am delighted to report that, with the funding for this project having been secured, the first proper broadcasts are set to begin. Thanks to the help of our resident radio technician Marcassin Muhindo, we’re ready to take to the airways tomorrow.

This is great news for the communities of the Mount Tshaberimu region, and it’s also excellent news for the endangered mountain gorillas living here. As our work with Radio Cosmos on the edge of the Virunga National Park has shown, educating people about the plight of gorillas is a great way of getting communities involved in conservation efforts.

As you can see in the above picture, the team at the new radio station are raring to get started. I’ll be sure to keep you up to date with news about the radio station and how it’s helping us with our valuable work here at Mount Tshiaberimu.

Mukokya Parade highlights ladies’ support for Mt T’s gorillas

Hi, this is Odilon,

Women, and mothers in particular, play a key role in helping communities around Mount Tshiaberimu thrive. And nothing illustrates their importance quite like Sagot, or Solidarity of Friends of Mountain Gorillas Tshiaberimu.

Founded in 2005, this is a network of several grassroots development associations, among them Integration of Women in Development (IFED) and the Association of Legionnaires’ Mothers for Development.

Sagot works to establish and support small-scale community initiatives, such as setting up nurseries where vegetables and fruit trees can be grown, teaching women the importance of sustainable agriculture and educating children how to respect the forests, home of the endangered mountain gorillas.

To mark International Women’s Day 2011, we helped to organise the annual Mukokya Parade – named after one of the mountain gorillas living here at Mount Tshiaberimu – with dozens of mothers dressing up and taking part in a march from the Gorilla Organization’s resource centre.

Here are some photos from this year’s Mukokya Parade. Check out the colourful Gorilla Organization uniforms some of the ladies are wearing!

Ladies supporting gorillas on the annual Mukokya Parade

Ladies supporting gorillas on the annual Mukokya Parade

Dozens of women from communities around Mt Tshiaberimu marched this year

Dozens of women from communities around Mt Tshiaberimu marched this year

Mount Tshiaberimu buzzing with new scientific research

Hi, this is Jean Claude,

Over the past few weeks, Mount Tshiaberimu really has been buzzing as scientists from around the world carry out exciting research into both the mountain gorillas and a wide range of other wildlife living in this part of DR Congo.

For example, an international team of researchers, including Dr Taranjit Kaur at Virginia Tech and Kathryn Williamson from the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, have been analysing fecal samples collected on Mt Tshiaberimu and looking for signs of possible malarial infections among the small gorilla population here. So far, none of the samples taken have shown such an infection to be present, though the team will carry on their research into the exact causes of the gorilla deaths seen here between 2008 and 2010.

My colleagues at Kinshasa University have also been focusing on how monkeys are contributing to the destruction of bamboo shoots in the forests on Mount Tshiaberimu as they continue to assess the both the genetics and the long-term viability of the remaining gorilla population here.

Meanwhile, since my last blog posting, Professor Eli B Greenbaum – from Harvard University – has been able to confirm that the two specimens from the tree frog Leptopelis he collected here are genetically distinct from all other tree frogs he has studied in sub-Saharan Africa. Once classified and formally recognised, this new species could help boost Mount Tshiaberimu’s status as a place of real ecological importance, which is good news for the critically-endangered mountain gorilla population!

Once again, I will be sure to keep you informed of any further developments.

Here I am (on the left) with my colleagues at the a training session in the Luki Biosphere Reserve

Here I am (on the left) with my colleagues at a training session on habitat evaluation in the Luki Biosphere Reserve, around 450km from Kinshasa.

Studying Mt Tshiaberimu’s remaining gorillas

Hi this is Jean-Claude,

With the support of the Gorilla Organization and in collaboration with my colleagues and friends at Tshiaberimu, I’m now studying for a master’s degree at Kinshasa University. Why am I doing this? Well, as you all know, the gorillas of Tshiaberimu are under great threat. The number living here fell from 22 to 14 between 2008 and 2009 and for the whole of last year we were unable to maintain complete control of the forest due to the permanent presence of soldiers, who were poaching and even killing people.

Because of this, I have decided to investigate the viability of this small remaining group of gorillas and analyse how the habitat here can help push numbers up. Are they able to enjoy a good quality diet here, for example? Could infectious diseases affect the gorillas? Is it possible to introduce some females? With these questions in mind, I will be conducting a large amount of research, not just for my masters programme, but also for a possible PhD.

I’m very grateful to all of those who are supporting my studies in different ways. In Kinshasa, the Gorilla Organization’s liaison officer Sebu Mugangu has promised to help me with my IT and computer maintenance skills and to help organise local transportation.

Imelda, who is studying for a degree in psychology and who has been following with interest my work with gorillas and local communities has, said she will help by producing a special radio broadcast to raise awareness of the gorillas and help change local people’s attitude to them.

Also, Vital Katembo, who was the first project manager at Tshiaberimu and who is now the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) representative in the DRC, has said I can stay with him and his family in Kinshasa.

I will be sure to keep you all up to date with news of my studies. Thank you!

Greetings from Mt Tshiaberimu

This is Jean Claude
2010 was a difficult year for the MtT project as we worked hard to protect the small
remaining group of gorillas living in Tshiaberimu. Six months were troubled by
rebels but thankfully all the staff here at the project stayed safe.

Our thanks to our colleagues at the Congolese Wildlife Authority, the GO executive team and to the Tshiaberimu blog friends who continue to support the project. Many thanks also to the local communities and chiefs who work with us and contribute to the success of the project.

Two woman are now in training in India to support the gorillas further, you can read more about this on the gorilla blog!

Despite the insecurity the gorillas have been healthy throughout 2010. Just before Christmas there was a battle between two silverbacks and Tsongo suffered some wounds to his face but he is fine!- here are some photos of him after the fight.

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Here is a photo of me with some of the team and Emilie who visited our community activities whilst working for the EU projects in the region – thank you so much for coming to see us!

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Human and animal health at Mt Tshiaberimu

This is Jean Claude and Mavisi

The health centres around the Mt Tshiaberimu gorilla habitat work extremely hard to provide effective medical care for the human population in this area. This is not only keeping the local population healthy but is also helping to keep disease out of the neighbouring forest and therefore away from the gorillas. Unfortunately however, domestic animals are hampering the fight against disease as their health is mostly ignored.

The Gorilla Organization is working with Conservation through Public Health (CTPH) to educate the local communities about the importance of keeping their domestic animals free of disease and an immunisation programme has begun.

–       46 dogs have been vaccinated against rabies in the communities of Kitolu, Burusi, Ngitse, Kaliro and Bumekeke

–       67 goats and sheep have been vaccinated against scabies in Kaliro and Burusi

From all of us at Mt Tshiaberimu we would like to say thank you for all the good will that has been shown to us and for the vaccines and antibiotics that have been provided to care for the animals in the region. However, some skin diseases occur in cattle throughout the area that we are currently unable to treat. We desperately need financial resources to investigate the disease and prevent it from spreading inside the gorilla habitat.

Thank you for listening and we will post on the blog again soon.

MUKOKYA JOINS A FAMILY IN MOUNT TSHIABIRIMU

Hello, this is Tuver.

I have just returned from a visit to Mount Tshiabirimu and have some news from the rangers about one of my favourite gorillas Mukokya – a lively young black back male.

You may remember reading on the blog about Mukokya’s sad year last year….. In February his elderly father Nzanzu, with whom he spent all his time, passed away. For a while he travelled alone, but he soon found friendship with the silverback Kanindo. This new pair spent a number of months supporting each other but in July the rangers at MT T were devastated to report the death of Kanindo and Mukokya was again alone.

But since 25 February 2010, the rangers at Mt T have been thrilled to see Mukokya has joined two other gorillas and become part of the Katsavara family. The family is led by the silverback Katsavara and is also home to adult female Mwengesyali – Mukokya’s mother!

Odilon Kataomba, the Gorilla Organization’s head of research at Mount Tshiaberimu is encouraged by the strengthening of this gorilla family – ‘it bodes well for the future’ he tells me.

With so few gorillas remaining at Mt Tshiaberimu their long term survival hangs in the balance, but the changing dynamics of the gorilla groups and the strengthening of their families gives us all hope.

Death of a dedicated worker at Mount T

Hi.this is Odilon
One of the first workers at Mount Tshiaberimu has died after falling down a ditch when walking home with his wife.

Kasereka Nzwende, known as Solitaire, died on the way back from attending mass on the night of Sunday 14 February.

He was one of the first local people to monitor the gorillas at Mount T, and he had been particularly fond of silverback gorilla Kanindo, who sadly died last year.

Jean Claude Kyungu, Project Manager at Mount Tshiaberimu, said it was very sad to lose Solitaire, who he knew as Papa because of his old age and wisdom.

Jillian Miller, Executive Director of the Gorilla Organization, said “I am very sorry to hear about Solitaire’s death. He gave a lot to the gorillas, and the sorrow about his death is very deep. I send my deepest condolences to his family.”

Solitaire leaves two wives and several children.
He was buried at Kisone with an intimate family funeral.

Memorial marks the one-year anniversary of our murdered ranger friend Safari

 His this is Vhosi

Kakule Safari was murdered on January 8th, 2009 at Mulango wa Nyama Patrol Post(Mount Tshiabirimu) when his group was attacked by rebel militia. He was then buried on January 10th,2009 at their family graveyard in Musienene village. He left three orphaned children and a widow.

Safari had worked on the Gorilla Organization programme at Mount T for more than three years. 

Recently at Mount Tshiabirimu people commemorated the one year anniversary of Safari’s murder.

A team of Mount T workers organised a meditative visit to Safari’s grave. Then a mass was said at Burusi by a priest from Kyondo Parish, and scores of people from villages surrounding Mount T attended. The mass was sung by a choir (called ‘Sacre Coeur de Jesus’) from Kyondo parish too.

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The local Community Based Organisations and the MtT workers collected some money to pay for a party where all the park workers and local villagers could come together. 

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We also thought of Nicolas Vighanzire and prayed for his ghost’s rest. Nicolas was a WWF volunteer and was assassinated on May 20th, 2007 at Burusi Ptrol Post( MtT) from an assault by unknown armed people. I was there in that attack myself, and survived it although I was shot in the leg. But I saw Nicolas giving up the ghost. He left behind his pregnant wife who gave birth to a lonely boy six months later. They are both healthy.

Thus, we prayed both for the ghosts’ rest of Safari and Nicolas, and for the peace at MtT. We hope the best both for people and the gorillas as every cloud has a silver lining.

Emirembe oko Bandu n’oko Ngayi e’ Kyabirimu, n’oko bosi abakawatikaya e’Gorilla Organization 

( Peace to MtT people and gorillas, and to all those who have been funding the GO field projects and to the HQ GO Team).

Vhosi