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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.

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.

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.

Monkeys survey

Hi This is Vhosi

Gorillas are not the only primates who live at Mount Tshiabirimu. Their monkey cousins live there too, but nobody knows very much about how many there are or where they actually live.

Starting last week a research team is involved in an expedition at Mount Tshiabirimu for a monkey survey. Researchers will be able to determine the monkeys’ abundance and their distribution in the gorillas’ habitat at Mount Tshiabirimu.

0904bluemonkey-1.JPG

Some people have been saying that the monkeys are greedy and eat too much food, which risks creating hunger for the other primates. We think that after a year we will know more about how many monkeys there are in the gorilla habitat, what they eat and how they are distributed there.

New Local Chief at Tshiaberimu

This is Tuver,

with news from Jean Claude about a new Mwami, or chief,
at Tshiaberimu, Abdhul Kalemire III.

In November 2008, the Mwami of
Bashu, Kalemire II, died. He was a friend of the project and defender
of the gorillas of the Virunga National Park. After lengthy discussion
about his succession, Paluku Abdhul Kalemire III has now replaced his
father. His installation ceremony, carried out by the Administrator of
Beni Territory, took place on 28 March 2009, at Vuhovi, the capital of
the of the Bashu Chiefdom. All the traditional chiefs of North Kivu
Province
took part in this ceremony, as well as several delegations.
ICCN was represented by the Tshiaberimu project, with a delegation
including Jean Claude, the social assistant Vhosi and two of the
rangers. The project contributed a large goat to the ceremony
following traditional custom. After the Mwami’s installation, the
Tshiaberimu project vehicle was used to transport the delegation of
the Administrator and his followers to Kyondo.

0608mtcp-a.JPG

Jean Claude himself was
the Administrator’s driver for the whole ceremony. At Kyondo, the
Administrator and the Mwami had good discussions with Jean Claude
about reinforcing the collaboration between the local authorities of
the Territory, the chiefdom and the Mount Tshiaberimu Conservation
Project.

Fighting in eastern DR Congo

Hello this is Jean Claude. At the moment we are safe at Mount Thsiaberimu but we are very concerned about the security situation at Goma.

I am at Kyondo at the moment and rebels have started to walk around. I have asked all staff to be very careful.

This morning I spoke to my colleague Henry who is in Goma. He had an ok night but there is fighting between the rebels and the Congolese army at Kibumba, just 30km from Goma. Gorilla Organization staff are staying in their homes for now but are keeping a very close eye on situation and an evacuation plan is in place should they need it.

Some Gorilla Organization partners are based in Rutshuru (between Goma and Mt Tshiaberimu) which is now under control of the Nkunda’s rebels. We had contact with staff there yesterday but today we have lost contact. We think they may have fled towards Uganda for safety.

The road from Rutshuru leads all the way up to Butembo, north of Mount Tshiaberimu and we fear that Rutshuru could be used as a door to move further north.

For the moment things are ok at Mount Tshiaberimu but we will keep in close contacts with all our colleagues and pray for the people and gorillas of the area.

Goodbye to Mwami Kalemire

Hello, this is Jean Claude. Sorry for the delay in my post, last week I was in Kampala, Uganda for the Gorilla Organization’s annual strategy meeting.

I have some sad news. On Thursday October 23 2008, Mwami Kalemire II, head of the chiefdom of Bashu, departed this world after a month in hospital.

Mwami Kalemire was a valiant fighter for ICCN, he was a man of value, peace and reconciliation. Mwami Kalemire, Grand Chief of Nande, was also the leader who controls Mount Tshiaberimu. He has championed the cause of the Virunga National Park and in particular Mont Tshiaberimu.

I attended the burial ceremony along with a huge gathering of Mwami Kalemire’s supporters including the Governor and a strong delegation from Kinshasa, Goma, Masisi, Walikale and Uganda.

Mwami Kalemire, a great supporter of gorilla conservation did not die alone. The same day the wife of late conservator Mesi’s father and Madame Scheidegger of Flora Fauna International also passed away. It was difficult for me to represent ICCN and the Gorilla Organization at all of ceremonies Thursday on Sunday 26 October, it was a very sad day. But it was important for me to say goodbye to them all and I succeeded to be everywhere. May missing souls depart in peace ….

Jean Claude becomes Conservator and Project Manager

This is Jean Claude. Last month the ADG (Director General) of ICCN appointed me conservator for the sector of Tshiabirimu, while continuing my role of Project Manager. I was very honored to accept this position, and very grateful that my efforts and endurance during the difficult periods at Mount Tshiaberimu had been recognised.

I would like to sincerely thank the ADG and all members of the management committee of the ICCN and the director of the Gorilla Organization for putting their trust in me.

It is not an easy task but with the support of everyone I will fulfill my role as very best that I can. Thank you.

Trouble in Muramba

Hello, this is Jean Claude. Muramba is a village at the foot of Mount Tshiaberimu, found on the west coast of Lake Edward. Sadly, Muramba has many problems and is a big threat to the survival of the gorillas. The population density of this village is growing and growing and is having a negative impact on the ecological corridor.

Encroachment in the forest has been a problem in this area for a long time now. Since 2004 we have worked hard with the local community to raise awareness to environmental issues and provide alternatives to the forest wherever we can but this work has had little success.

We recently carried out another visit to Muramba but again it was not successful. We will now concentrate on intensifying the patrols in the corridor between the coast of Lake Edward and the gorilla habitat, and also continue to work with the local communities to find a solution. Please see some pictures below taken by Vhosi during the recent mission to Muramba. In the first photo you can see the growing village between the lake and the forest of Mount Tshiaberimu. The next two photos show the meeting we held with the local community, and the final picture shows ICCN’s patrol boat.

village between lake and mountainmeeting at Murambumeeting at Muambu 2patroling the lake

Health update from Tshiaberimu

Hello this is Jean Claude. During the last few days we have carried out a gorilla health monitoring visit at Tshiaberimu. Dr Jacques Iyanya and Dr Eddy Kambale from the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) led the mission and were joined by Dr Mavisi, a local vet who has been working with the project for some time, and Mr Odilon, our research coordinator.

Three habituated gorilla groups were observed – Lusenge, Kipura and Kanindo – from the patrol posts of Burusi, Kalibina and Kikyo, respectively.

During the health monitoring visit, three individuals were checked from Lusenge group (Nzanzu, Musangania and Mukokya), four individuals from the Kipura group and two from the Kanindo family. Faecal samples from each night nest were taken and close observations of the individuals health and behavior were recorded. It is very rainy here now at the moment but thankfully the rain started after the fecal samples were collected.

I am very happy to tell you that no apparent health problems were recorded for any of the observed individuals – great news!

In addition to the vet’s visit, ICCN trained rangers are collecting health data daily for some habituated gorilla group. They are using the MGVP IMPACT system (IMPACT = Internet-Support Management Program to Assist Conservation Technologie) This system gives the rangers guidelines to observe the gorillas health and helps them to identify any health problems.

Please see some pictures below taken during the gorilla health monitoring visit. I am sorry that some of them some of them are not very clear.
Thanks for all your support and I will write again soon.Mukokya at Mt TMCVP Mt Visit

MGVP visit to Mt T