By Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka | Founder and CEO
Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka monitoring gorillas
This report covers the progress on Conservation Through Public Health’s project on GlobalGiving, The Gorilla Guardians of Bwindi, Uganda #44078.
Our last report on this project was submitted in July 2021. By this time, our supporters towards this project had grown in number from 80 to 107 donors. To date, the project has a total of 187 donations from 112 donors with 7 monthly donors and one fundraiser within 1 year.
We were also very grateful to receive a Donor Directed Grant from GlobalGiving, in partnership with the American Endowment Foundation, for the sum of 6000 USD in September 2021.
What we have done
Gorilla Health Monitoring
The Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) field team has continued to carry out routine gorilla health monitoring through non-invasive gorilla fecal sample collection from gorilla night nests in all 22 gorilla groups around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP). Since the last report, our field team managed to collect 531 gorilla faecal samples. All these samples are currently being stored in RNAlater for analysis at the CTPH Gorilla Health and Community Conservation Center. Others are being preserved in RNAlater and will be analysed for SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, other coronaviruses and respiratory infections and other infectious viruses. The Gorilla Guardians are integral to collection of the samples and have been trained by CTPH in safe collection and storage of the samples.
In July 2021, we received the sad news of the death of an adult female Mountain gorilla, Kashundwe, from the Katwe gorilla group. A postmortem was done where the cause of death was found to be an increased helminthic burden and due to old age. Her older age led to a reduction of the immune system, hence the increase and multiplication of helminthic parasites.
In July 2021, some members of Muyambi gorilla group, Kisho and the dominant silverback (called Muyambi) were seen coughing. Continuous monitoring was done for three days and, over the course of this period, the severity was reduced normally without the need to administer any therapy. Other members of the gorilla group were healthy and feeding well.
Gorilla Baby boom continues
On 26th July 2021, Bitukura group was blessed with a new baby by adult female, Kenoheri, who delivered for the first time. In the same group, one adult female, Betina, was taken by Mukiza, the dominant Silverback in Mukiza gorilla group.
In July 2021, Bweza gorilla group was invaded by a solitary silverback which was quickly identified and UWA rangers stepped in to help thwart the invasion. Bikyingi and Mucungunzi gorilla groups were feeding along the park boundary where the Gorilla Guardians would stay with them and leave them when they had nested to prevent them from moving out of the Park and foraging to the community. In Nkuringo, Nkuringo gorilla group was the only group that foraged out of the park, doing so for a period of one week where there was concern the group could encroach on community gardens, especially sorghum plantations. Gorilla Guardians supported by chasing it back to the forest
In August 2021, Rotary, an adult female from Mishaya gorilla group joined Bweza Bweza gorilla group. Unfortunately, she lost her baby a few days later. A postmortem was done where we found that its testacles had rotten. We suspected them to have been squeezed by Dorminant Silverback, Ntindatine. This is a common behaviour among silverbacks especially if the baby is not a member of their group. All the other group members were very healthy and feeding very well.
Mucunguzi gorilla group in Southern Sector of Bwindi was feeding along the park boundary for a week, found together with livestock in Nyiguru village. Park rangers and Gorilla Guardians tried to chase them back to the forest but the following morning they kept finding them back. They continued until eventually the gorillas moved futher into the forest.
Bikyigi gorilla group was feeding around the Batwa communities in Nyabaremura village where it stayed for three weeks.
In Nkuringo, Nkuringo gorilla group was the only gorilla group which foraged outside the forest four times in the second week of August. The Gorilla Guardians of Nkuringo participated in chasing them back to the forest.
Rushegura group is the biggest group in the Northern sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park with a total number of 19 members. In August 2021, the group foraged and raided community banana plantation in Rubona Village. Blackback together with his followers escaped to the nearby plantation, where they raided a banana plantation. Gorilla Guardians of Rubona village were called and chased them back deep in the forest.
World Gorilla Day
On 24th September 2021, CTPH joined the rest of the world to celebrate World Gorilla Day. This day was very special day for us, and we shared videos from our supporters, staff and community members who recorded different messages. Please follow @CTPH.org on social media and Conservation Through Public Health of YouTube channel to watch the videos.
On 27th September, we celebrated World Tourism Day with the celebration with the birth of a new gorilla baby in Mishaya family Rushaga sector.
Training of Gorilla Guardians
On 28th October 2021, CTPH and UWA commenced training of Gorilla Guardians, also known as Human and Gorilla Conflict resolution teams (HUGOs), of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Key training topics included COVID-19 history, signs and symptoms, vaccination, different variants, and prevention of COVID-19 among people and from people to mountain gorillas.
Other topics included sharing the recently Government endorsed safer Great Ape viewing guidelines and refershing information on gorilla health monitoring, including practical training sessions on recognizing clinical signs and collecting gorilla fecal samples.
A highlight was presenting Gorilla Guardian T-shirts which had been generously donated by Laura Anrdt of Global Green STEM. They were handed over by CTPH Founder and CEO, Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, in appreciation for their noble service in helping to keep the mountain gorillas safe and healthy.
We would like to thank Milkywire and all supporters of the Gorilla Guardians project on GlobalGiving for their generous donations, as well as our implementing partners - Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Bwindi Community Hospital and Kanungu District for making this training possible.
In Memory of Kate Thomas
We would like to thank the family and friends of the Kate Thomas for organizing a fundraiser in her memory. To date the fundraiser has generated €5,120 raised by 58 friends of Kate Thomas in 8 months. Funds from this have been used to build a furnished fire pit at CTPH Field site at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Though not yet completed, the fire pit is already being used by many of our visitors as seen in the pictures where the team is sharing the story of Kate Thomas and we hope to complete the construction and installation of plaques in Kate's honour in the next quarter.
We remain truly grateful to GlobalGiving and all our supporters for their generosity and support, without which our work to protect and conserve the endangered Mountain Gorillas would not be possible.
Maraya Dominant silverback of Mubare
Gorilla Guardians collecting gorilla fecal samples
CTPH's Annaclet collecting gorilla fecal samples
Visitors at CTPH Gorilla Conservation Camp.
Dr Gladys addressing the Gorilla Guardians
Gorilla Guardians in a group photo after training