Watch: The last DRC mountain gorillas again face an uncertain fate

Silver-back mountain gorilla Kabirizi at the Virunga National Park in DRC.Yes, it’s happening again.

A few weeks ago, the delicate state of peace in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo was again shattered by renewed clashes between the Congolese army and rebel militias operating near and inside Virunga National Park.

Established in 1925, the park is the oldest in Africa and a bastion for the endangered mountain gorilla. This is the site where conservation icons like George Schaller and Dian Fossey conducted the first field studies on the Gorilla beringei beringei.

Out of an estimated 790 mountain gorillas left in the world, approximately 200 of them live within the park’s territory.  Remarkably, and in spite of a 12-year civil war in the region, the park’s gorilla population has continued its upward trend; but for how long?

Dian Fossey was forced to flee Congo and the gorillas she was studying back in 1967 due to civil unrest in the country. All these years later, thousands of Congolese refugees follow her footsteps in yet another wave of violence unleashed a few weeks ago.

As refugee camps in Rwanda and Uganda struggle to cope with the influx of people, back in Virunga things are quickly getting out of hand. The Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) are evacuating their rangers from the combat zone.

This is bad news for the gorillas and other animals that receive protection from ICCN.

Back in July of last year, my International Fund for Animal Welfare colleague Céline Sissler-Bienvenu and I traveled to Africa and partnered with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International to move 6 rescued Grauer gorilla orphans from Rwanda to a rehabilitation center in the DRC.

After we successfully completed the operation, we joined rangers from the ICCN and visited/filmed wild mountain gorillas at the famous park. Take just a few minutes and visit Virunga’s treasure by playing the video below:

Trekking up the volcano’s slopes to get a unique 1-hr glimpse of wild mountain gorillas is an experience I will never forget.  I think about the dominant silver-back Kabirizi and his family group in these uncertain times and hope they remain safe.

Losing just a single family group would have devastating consequences for mountain gorilla conservation.


Find out more about IFAW efforts to save primates.

If you’re as concerned as I am, go directly to the Fossey Fund website for the latest security reports and help all of us protect animals in need.

Comments: 19

6 years ago

What a great video being touched by a silverback !!! Before i die i want to hold a baby gorilla so bad !! I love them so much !!

6 years ago

Thank you Michael Booth for sharing this video. GOOD JOB.

6 years ago

We took a trip to see the gorillas in 1996. It was a beautiful moving experience I will never forget. To think they will be gone if the situation is not better just makes me sick.

6 years ago

There is not enough words in our human language to describe the beauty and the nobility of these gorillas. Just watch them.

6 years ago

thank the universe for people like you and your team who continually work at defendinf and rescuing these majestic creatures we as the human race think that we are evolved,but it is driven by ego and wealth
Jan from aussie land

6 years ago

These beautiful creatures. To think that someday they could be wiped out breaks my heart. Oh how I wish all of us that love respect & admire these magnificent creatures could just band together, go there & protect them..........

6 years ago

The video just took my heart. As a long time yearning for primates safety & handling it concerns me that not only the Gorillas & their families are in danger of extinction but so many other of Gods given animals are also in danger. Can't the fighting stop, stop all the destruction especially in a National Park - OFF LIMITS!!!!!!!!!

6 years ago

Why is it always the animals that have to suffer at man's unrest ? If nothing is done to protect these threatened species, these wonderful creatures will disappear off the face of the earth forever. This is a real tradgety and the human race continue to destroy everything that nature has given them. I pray these gorillas are kept safe. Thank you IFAW for all wonderful work

6 years ago

I wish I was young enough and healthy enough and rich enough to be able to help but unfortunately all I can do is hope that some way the gorrilas will survive .It breaks my heart to see the injustice towards so many beautiful animals is this world

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Joseph Okori
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Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
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Faye Cuevas, Esq.
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Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
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Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
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Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
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