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Published:August 10th, 2007 06:33 EST
700 endangered and threatened mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

700 endangered and threatened mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

By SOP newswire

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reiterated its strong support for the remaining 700 endangered and threatened mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda.

A large part of that support is in the form of grants awarded through the Service's Wildlife Without Borders Program, made possible by the Great Apes Conservation Fund. The fund was established by Congress to provide assistance for conserving species that face a variety of threats, from poaching to illegal trafficking, human conflict, habitat loss and disease. The funding also promotes education in international communities on the biology and plight of the gorillas.

Confined to the transboundary area of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo known as the Albertine Rift, mountain gorillas are threatened by disease, poaching, loss of habitat due to expanding human populations and continued civil conflict.

Four gorillas, three female and one male silverback, were found shot to death in July inside Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mountain gorillas live in stable family groups and have primarily vegetarian diets, comprised of leaves, shoots, and stems of herbaceous vegetation. Only 700 survive today. Killing of mountain gorillas has focused worldwide attention on the need for more protection for the highly intelligent and unique apes.

Since the Great Ape Conservation Fund was authorized in 2000, 272 grants totaling approximately $28.2 million, including partner matches, have gone to field projects worldwide. In Africa, 161 grants and partner matches totaling $19.6 million were delivered to field projects to conserve great apes. Twenty-four grants and partner matches totaling $4.2 million are earmarked for great ape conservation projects in or around the Albertine Rift, including mountain gorilla projects in the Virunga-Bwindi Forest Ecosystem of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda.

Examples of projects aimed at helping the gorillas include improving law enforcement capacity to protect mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda by increasing transboundary collaboration and training; assisting mountain gorillas in Rwanda by supporting the development of the wildlife tourism industry; creation of a gorilla health monitoring system across Central Africa; strengthening the capacity of Ugandan schools to include curriculum on great ape biology and conservation; and field surveys of great apes throughout their range to examine trends in their population, health, and distribution.

For more information about the Service's international programs, visit http://www.fws.gov/international/dicprograms/wwbp.htm.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 97-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 548 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service