When I first interviewed for my job at AWF, I was told that I may, on occasion, be asked to travel to Africa for work. No one ever told me I’d be expected to go to Idaho, too. But there I was last Thursday, crawling out of my soft, warm bed and leaving my family at 5 in the morning to catch a plane to Sun Valley, Idaho. For work.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the African Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) brown bag meeting on the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF’s) African Great Apes Program—you can see that we love acronyms in conservation—on AWF’s behalf.
Fifteen years ago, ranger-based monitoring (or RBM for short) was initiated as a tool in the conservation of mountain gorillas. Whether patrolling the park for law enforcement or tracking mountain gorillas for health assessments or to facilitate visits by tourists or researchers, data is being collected and recorded on data sheets. Every day. That's over 5,000 days of valuable data collected.
Three-year-old mountain gorilla Ngwino is dead. And contributing to her death was a rope snare set by a poacher to capture an antelope for wild meat. Sadly, she is the SECOND young mountain gorilla dead due to the actions of a human being in the Virunga Massif this year. With only approximately 780 mountain gorillas remaining, the loss of one mountain gorilla is a serious blow to this critically endangered species.
Amid rebel militia advancements toward Rumangabo, where Virunga National Park headquarters is located, the park has evacuated most of the rangers and their families in order to keep them out of harm's way. Photo by LuAnne Cadd/ Virunga National Park.
On July 8, 2012, nearly 800 people- rangers and their families- were evacuated from Virunga National Park headquarters at Rumangabo and taken to the town of Goma, approximately 40 km to the south. Approximately 30 rangers and Virunga National Park warden Emmanuel de Merode stayed behind to protect the park headquarters and the four orphaned mountain gorillas at the Senkwekwe Center.