Lions back to Rwanda after fifteen years


This video is called Wild Botswana: Lion Brotherhood HD Documentary.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Lions to be reintroduced to Rwanda after 15-year absence following genocide

Seven big cats will be taken from South Africa to Akagera national park, where lion population was wiped out, in major conservation project

David Smith in Johannesburg

Sunday 28 June 2015 16.00 BST

Seven lions in South Africa are to be tranquillised, placed in steel crates and loaded on to a charter flight to Rwanda on Monday, restoring the predator to the east African country after a 15-year absence.

Cattle herders poisoned Rwanda’s last remaining lions after parks were left unmanaged and occupied by displaced people in the wake of the 1994 genocide, according to the conservation group African Parks, which is organising the repopulation drive.

It said two parks in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province with “relatively small, confined reserves where it is necessary to remove surplus lions” are donating the big cats to Rwanda. The seven – five females and two males – were chosen based on future reproductive potential and their ability to contribute to social cohesion, including a mix of ages and genetic makeup.

From Monday they will be transferred to Akagera national park in north-east Rwanda by truck and plane in a journey lasting about 26 hours. African Parks said: “They will be continually monitored by a veterinary team with experience in translocations. They will be kept tranquillised to reduce any stress and will have access to fresh water throughout their journey.”

Upon arrival at the 112,000-hectare park, which borders Tanzania, the lions will be kept in quarantine in a specially-erected 1,000m² enclosure with an electrified fence for at least two weeks before they are released into the wild.

The park is fenced, but the lions will be equipped with satellite collars to reduce the risk of them straying into inhabited areas. African Parks said: “The collars have a two-year life, by which time the park team will have evaluated the pride dynamics and only the dominant individuals in each pride will be re-collared.”

As a wildlife tourist destination, Rwanda is best known for its gorilla tracking safaris. But Akagera, a two-hour drive from the capital, Kigali, is home to various antelope species, buffaloes, giraffes and zebras, as well as elephants and leopards. It attracted 28,000 visitors in 2014.

Last year, as part of the preparations for the reintroduction, the Akagera team ran a sensitisation programme in communities surrounding the park to promote harmonious co-existence with lions.

Yamina Karitanyi, the head of tourism at the Rwanda Development Board, said: “It is a breakthrough in the rehabilitation of the park … Their return will encourage the natural balance of the ecosystem and enhance the tourism product to further contribute to Rwanda’s status as an all-in-one safari destination.”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the lion as vulnerable in an update this month of its red list of species facing survival threats. It noted lion conservation successes in southern Africa, but said lions in west Africa were critically endangered and rapid population declines were also being recorded in east Africa.

African Parks cited human encroachment on lion habitats and a decline in lion prey as reasons for the population drop. It identified a trade in lion bones and other body parts for traditional medicine in Africa, as well as Asia, as a growing threat.

Peter Fearnhead, the chief executive of African Parks, which manages Akagera and seven other national parks on the continent, said: “The return of lions to Akagera is a conservation milestone for the park and the country.”

See also here.

Apparently Rwanda plans to reintroduce black rhino as well as lions to Akagera NP this year, to have the “big five”: here.

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.

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.

Mountain gorillas in Rwanda could run the risk of inbreeding, as females often stay in their natal group well into adulthood, which means living closely with their fathers, usually the dominant male in the group. However, in these circumstances they appear tactically to avoid mating with their fathers, according to Linda Vigilant and her research group from the Max Planck Institute for Anthropology in Germany, published in Springer’s journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology: 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.