Wild gorilla using tools, new discovery


This video from Uganda is called Touched by a Wild Mountain Gorilla (HD Version).

From the BBC:

Wild gorilla creates a food tool in ‘eureka’ moment

For the first time, a wild gorilla is seen using a tool to eat food

It’s a scene that would grace the opening of any Planet of the Apes movie.

But rather than being fiction, this is fact, and one that is new to science.

For the first time, a gorilla in the wild has been seen using a tool to acquire and eat food.

The young female gorilla watched another older male attempt to collect ants from a hole in the ground, only to see the ants bite his arm, scaring him away.

The female gorilla tried to put her own arm in the hole, and she too was bitten.

But instead of giving up, the young ape then had her very own ‘eureka’ moment.

She looked around for a suitable implement, and selected a piece of wood approximately 20 cm long, tapering from 2 cm wide at one end to 1 cm long at the other.

She then inserted the stick into the hole, withdrew it, and licked off ants clambering over it, avoiding being stung.

Other great apes have been seen to use tools in the wild, and captive gorillas have been known to fashion and use a range of tools in their enclosures.

But the incident is surprising because wild gorillas were, until now, rarely known to have created and used tools.

The only known examples are when a western lowland gorilla was documented using a stick to gauge the depth of water before crossing a waterway. Another was been seen using bamboo as a ladder for her young infant to climb up.

But until now wild gorillas have never been seen using implements to eat with.

Lisanga, a very clever ape

The use of the stick was witnessed by Dr Jean-Felix Kinani, the head veterinarian with Gorilla Doctors, an organisation of vets that works with wildlife authorities to monitor the health of wild gorillas.

He and colleagues were observing one of eight mountain gorilla groups habituated to humans in the Volcanoes National Park, in Rwanda.

Within the group live 23 gorillas, including three silverback males, a younger male, and seven adult females, as well as juvenile gorillas and infants.

The veterinarians saw a gorilla named Kigoma, the second ranking silverback in the group, insert his left hand in to a hole in the ground, attempting to catch driver ants to eat.

He quickly withdrew it, and ran from the hole, shaking his arm, presumably remove the biting ants, report Dr Felix and colleague Dr Dawn Zimmerman, who are both affiliated to the University of California, US.

All the time, a younger female, Lisanga, watched his actions, they report in the American Journal of Primatology.

She approached the hole and for approximately two minutes watched the ants enter and leave it.

She then put her own hand in the whole, suffering Kigoma’s fate.

Undeterred however, she found her tool, a broken branch lying some 2 m from the hole, and preceded to use it to dine on the ants.

Chimpanzees are well known to use tools in the wild, with different groups using different implements; some use sticks to dig out termites or to fish or dip for ants. They have even been seen using spears to hunt monkeys.

Wild orang-utans in Asia have spontaneously created hammers, probes and scrapers made of sticks.

And in captivity, gorillas have been seen using sticks as weapons, using coconut fibres as sponges, and logs as ladders.

Which begs the question, why don’t they in the wild?

One answer is that they do, but it goes unnoticed.

Another is that gorillas are observed more in captivity, making it more likely that scientists spot novel behaviours.

But it could also be that captive gorillas have less to do than their wild counterparts, so are more inclined to experiment to fill the time, Mike Cranfield, Director of Gorilla Doctors told BBC Earth.

Captive gorillas often have new objects placed in their enclosures to enrich their environments, providing more opportunity for them to be turned into tools.

“Lisanga is a curious gorilla,” explained Dr Kinani. “She is known to have an investigative personality.”

For example, one anecdotal report details her showing more than casual interest in a researcher’s bag, quietly approaching behind the researcher and attempting to take the bag away.

“This looks to be an idiosyncratic behaviour,” he adds, referring to her use of the stick to catch and eat ants.

No other gorillas witnessed Lisanga’s actions, so it is unlikely that they too will learn the same trick, developing a culture of stick use.

This time, at least.

Saving gorillas in 2014, video


This video says about itself:

Year-End Thank You 2014

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International

17 December 2014

47 years later, we are still committed to saving gorillas. Featuring Fossey Fund staff from Atlanta, Musanze and Nkuba-Biruwe, we thank our supporters for making our work possible!

Gorilla conservation in Cameroon


This video says about itself:

16 December 2009

This clip is the first professional video of the elusive and highly endangered Cross River gorilla. It is the world’s rarest great ape, numbering fewer than 300 individuals along the border of Nigeria and Cameroon.

From Wildlife Extra:

Gorillas benefit from new protection in Cameroon

Critically endangered Cross River Gorillas will be receiving much-needed additional protection in Cameroon with the creation of Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in the southwest of the country.

The decree to officially create the sanctuary was signed by the Prime Minister of Cameroon, and will be the third such reserve in the country to protect the dwindling habitat of the Cross River Gorilla.

The gorillas in this region were only discovered relatively recently in the early 20th century, but following the Nigerian conflict during the 1960s it was feared that they had become a casualty of war and had become extinct. It was only during the 1980s that small groups of the Cross River Gorilla were rediscovered.

But their numbers in the wild have remained low in spite of conservation efforts. Living in the region of the Cross River, which flows from Cameroon to Nigeria and passes through rainforest, their habitat has become restricted to rugged highland areas where hunting pressure is lower.

Furthermore, the great apes’ habitat is surrounded by some of Africa’s most densely populated human settlements, and is become increasingly fragmented.

In order to tackle these threats to the gorilla, two reserves were set up by the Cameroon Government: the Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary and Takamanda National Park. The addition of Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary marks a further move in the right direction for the protection of the Cross River Gorilla.

Prior to the decree to create the sanctuary, the forest was under communal forest laws, which allowed land to be converted for use for anything other than forestry. Organisation Flora and Fauna International have been working toward the protection of the gorillas in the forest since 2004, and understand that the creation of Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary will impact upon local communities, so will be involving them in the sanctuary design and helping them to find sustainable ways to earn a living.

… read more about the plight of the Cross River Gorilla here.

Gorilla film wins award


This video says about itself:

“Hope”, a film by Craghoppers featuring Sir David Attenborough

8 April 2014

Hope is a powerful film, which revisits the plight of the critically endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda and the team of people who are responsible for their survival.

Produced by Craghoppers and voiced by Sir David Attenborough, Hope was filmed in the Volcanoes National Park 47 years after Dian Fossey began her life’s work in mountain gorilla conservation. Only ruins of Fossey’s original Karisoke Research Centre remain — but we meet the research team in their new home, where 120 people continue Dian’s work.

Never before seen footage goes behind the scenes of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International as they intensely monitor the gorillas, with the help of a dedicated team of trackers and anti poaching patrols — whose job it is to follow the great apes every day, 365 days per year, through difficult and sometimes dangerous terrain.

The documentary also shows the very human side to the Fossey Fund’s approach to conservation as we follow the local people who live next to the gorilla’s habitat and the work that is being done to change attitudes. The children growing up in these communities today have grown to love and the respect the gorillas that their people once killed for their own survival.

More than 40 years of extreme conservation, which was pioneered by Dian Fossey, has resulted in the Virunga mountain gorilla population nearly doubling in size. However, the mountain gorillas remain critically endangered. Providing much hope for the future, yet highlighting the need for continued support, the film has one very clear message: we must support the people protecting the mountain gorillas — they are their only hope of survival.

From Wildlife Extra:

Mountain gorilla film wins award

A film highlighting the plight of mountain gorillas in Rwanda has won the Best Short Film award at the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival, which runs from 13-19 October in New York.

Narrated by Sir David Attenborough and produced by Craghoppers, Hope revisits the mountain gorillas at the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, nearly 47 years after Dian Fossey began her work in the region.

“Our motivation behind making Hope was to highlight the extreme efforts adopted by the Dian Fossey Fund to protect the mountain gorillas in Rwanda and the sometimes dangerous challenges the team face every day,” said Managing Director for Craghoppers, Jim McNamara.

“It’s therefore a great feeling to know that a film that was designed to inspire and remind people about the plight of the gorillas has done just that in wider industry.

“I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved with this documentary. Winning this award is a not only a great achievement for Craghoppers and the team who produced ‘Hope’, but also for the Dian Fossey Fund, as the film will get in front of an even greater audience and will hopefully urge people to support the charity and donate to a very worthy cause.”

Read a field guide to mountain gorillas HERE.

Rwanda’s mountain gorillas, new film


Wildlife Extra writes about this video:

Rwanda’s mountain gorillas star in new documentary – watch it here

April 2014: Mountain gorillas at the Volcanoes National Park are the subject of a new 15 minute documentary entitled Hope which you can watch [above here]. The short film revisits the mountain gorillas at the park, nearly 47 years after Dian Fossey began her work in the region, and explores the extreme, intensive and sometimes dangerous methods employed to protect the great apes.

The film, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, takes a historical look back to 1967 when Dian Fossey began her work. Fewer than 300 mountain gorillas remained at the time, their population ravaged by poachers, who for years targeted the gorillas to make money, selling infant gorillas to zoos or the hands and heads of the adults as trophies to wealthy tourists.

Dian Fossey was murdered in 1985, her original research centre destroyed, rebuilt and then destroyed again during the civil war in Rwanda in the 1990s. However, despite adversity, the work never stopped. Today the Karisoke Research Center has a new home where 120 people continue Dian’s work, as the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.

The charity employs teams of trackers who follow the gorillas every day. They monitor each gorilla, ensuring its safety and health, risking their lives in a region that is still plagued by violence.

“The number of mountain gorillas had become so depleted in Rwanda by the late 1960s that extreme measures were needed to protect the remaining population and allow it to increase,” said David Attenborough. “The work at the Volcanoes National Park by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International absolutely must continue, if we are to protect this species of great ape, which is still critically endangered. The film Hope will once again bring to light the fragile existence of the mountain gorillas and the work that goes into protecting them. By watching and sharing this very important film you will be helping the people saving the gorillas.”

At the beginning of July, Rwanda celebrates its annual Kwita Izina, a traditional gorilla naming ceremony: here.

Ugandan mountain gorilla photos:here.

Mountain gorillas could survive for thousands of years at very low population levels due to resistance to the genetic effects of inbreeding: here.