Kahuzi-Biega National Park Welcomes New LeadershipBy Gorilla Doctors Staff on Friday, May 27th, 2022 in Blog.
Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is home to critically endangered Grauer’s gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri) as well as a rich diversity of flora and fauna. It is estimated that Kahuzi-Biega and surrounding unprotected forest support almost 60% of the total remaining population of Grauer’s gorillas1. For the past few years, the park has experienced challenges with illegal forest use, human-wildlife conflict (watch a video as we relocate a wild Grauer’s from a village back into the park), and sometimes violence between rangers and local communities.
In order to address these challenges, the Congolese wildlife authority, Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), recently partnered with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to lead a new vision for the future of the park focused on forest protection, conflict resolution and community development.
On May 6, Gorilla Doctors was honored to lead the new interim ICCN Director General, Olivier Mushiete, on a gorilla trek to visit Bonane group – a family of eight Grauer’s gorillas. Dr. Lina Nturubika, Gorilla Doctors newest field veterinarian hired specifically to focus on Grauer’s gorilla health monitoring, showed the Director how we conduct a health check and the clinical signs we look for to identify illness or injury. They also discussed some of the greatest health threats Grauer’s gorillas face from poaching to deforestation and the risk of disease.
On May 19, Gorilla Doctors welcomed the new park director, WCS’ Deo Kujirakwinja, to Gorilla Doctors field station to congratulate WCS on its new role and discuss Gorilla Doctors’ life-saving veterinary care and health monitoring for Grauer’s gorillas. “Working closely with WCS to maintain and expand our work with Grauer’s gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega National Park is a significant focus of Gorilla Doctors’ strategic direction in DR Congo over the next five years” said Dr. Eddy Kambale Syaluha, Gorilla Doctors’ head veterinarian in DR Congo. “We are thrilled to have Director Kujirakwinja bring his expertise in conservation and ecological monitoring to the park.”
A Note from the Executive Director
Of the estimated 1,571 Grauer’s gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega National Park1, less than 50 are human-habituated. Gorillas habituated to the presence of people is what allows our field veterinarians to conduct visual health assessments and provide medical treatment. We also monitor the health of a small number of Grauer’s gorillas in the Mt. Tshiabirimu sector of Virunga National Park. But, given that most of the world’s remaining Grauer’s gorillas (estimated between 3,800-6,800 individuals1) are completely wild and unhabituated, Gorilla Doctors has also developed non-invasive techniques to monitor the health of the Grauer’s gorillas where it is not possible to get close enough to monitor visually or provide hands-on veterinary care.
1Plumptre, Andrew J., et al. “Changes in Grauer’s gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) and other primate populations in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park and Oku Community Reserve, the heart of Grauer’s gorilla global range.” American Journal of Primatology 83.7 (2021): e23288.