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

5 years ago

Hi, I wonder if there any other way of helping except donating money? Would it be possible to work as a volunteer or similar?

5 years ago

Beautiful, beautiful video. Thanks, Michael. Observing these friends in their natural habitat is on my bucket list (along with holding a baby gorilla).

5 years ago

These gorillas are the closest thing to us humans and we should keep them safe.

6 years ago

Flew into Kigali and went Gorilla trekking for two days. The most exhilerating experience of my life. A life changing experience. One gorilla family was drunk on bamboo and were as frisky as ever. A female decided to surprise me and come up from behind me after passing me and slapping me on the butt a few times. That was just one of the many experiences I encountered in just one hour. The next day was as breath taking but this family was not drunk. Truely amazing. It is a great way to try and save the mountain gorillas of Kigali.

6 years ago

Beautiful videos! I'm crazy in love with gorillas, but those adorable bear cubs make my heart smile! Thank you for all that you do for these beautiful and wonderful animals!

6 years ago

Thank goodness for these wonderful people !!!!!!! The cruelty of man is limitless and if there were no protection for these wonderful creatures, they would be annihilated !!!!!!

6 years ago

God Bless you w/ your work and may GOd give you the strength and health to continue saving these animals.. I believe in giving animals their land and protecting animals.

6 years ago

I am so thankful for you and your Team for Helping these Amazing Creatures.........Most of The Human Race seems to Think that the Earth is theirs, and the Animals dont belong here, but they are Wrong...the Earth Belongs to the Animals, they are the only ones who Respect it!

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" (anonymous). Thanks for this comment. I totally agree.

6 years ago


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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
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Dr. Joseph Okori
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Faye Cuevas, Esq.
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