From Kenya's savannah grasslands to the land of a million hills in Uganda, our bus rattles along rough roads taking us to our first destination – Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. We are high in the mountains and though our journey is just beginning, I've arrived at what is to be one of the highlights of my trip.
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.
One, two, and now three mountain gorilla groups in Virunga National Park have been found and all members accounted for.
Yesterday, May 24, Virunga National Park sent a team of rangers back to Bukima in an attempt to reestablish the monitoring of habituated mountain gorillas that range in that area. The hope was to locate the gorillas after several weeks without contact. That last few weeks have been volatile, with rebel movements within the National Park and intense fighting raging between rebel militias and the Congolese army on the park's edge in Bikenge and Jomba.
Augustin Kanyunyi Basabose, one of Africa's leading experts on Great Apes, is now the Interim Director of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) - a coalition of the African Wildlife Foundation, Fauna & Flora International, and the World Wide Fund for Nature.