In the world, there is an extremely small number of mountain gorillas: only 880 individuals, distributed in 785 square kilometers in two zones, between Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo.
Almost everyone knows the scientists who studied them in the past, such as George Schaller and Diane Fossey, who in 1967 founded the Karisoke Research Center.
Fossey began to study gorillas in a novel way, introducing habituation and individual recognition.
Currently, in the organization that she created in 1978 after the killing of Digit, her favorite gorilla, work 150 people, 95% of whom are locals.
The director of the research center is Rwandese and the foundation’s top priority is gorilla conservation. 70 workers travel daily to the mountains to follow up the gorillas that live in the area of conservation Virunga.
The main threats that endanger the survival of these gorillas are the high human density, the densely thick forests that do not leave them to any escape route when being illegally hunted, and habitat loss.
However, despite the many threats, the population of gorillas is seeing a growth rate of 2% per year and in recent years has been changing the organization of their groups.
Currently, there are 10 habituated groups of gorillas dedicated to tourism and 10 to research, with 135 animals followed daily.
In addition to conservation, the Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund also develops education and training programs, direct action projects on the local population (medical center, drinking water, etc.), and encourages the participation of local people in conservation work.
Jordi Galbany is collaborating on two lines of research, both related to hard tissues (bones, teeth): one with live specimens, another with postmortems.
By studying the gorilla’s teeth, you can discover an unimaginable amount of information, for example about the state of health, stress or diet of the gorillas.
In addition, Jordi’s organization is dedicated to measuring the gorillas through photogrammetry: measurements made through photos to see the pattern of growth and compare it with other species.
With smaller and lighter species such as monkeys, the animal can be induced to walk on a wood where a tape measure has been previously attached, but this system is obviously not feasible with gorillas.
In this case, parallel lasers and distance meters are used, a technique that was previously introduced to measure humans, fish and animals difficult to capture.
Every day, Jordi and his team enter the park and go to search for gorillas guided by trackers and sometimes to find them they have to walk several kilometers.
Patterns of development and growth are not yet known but are very important for conservation. These findings allow us to discover, for example, if the gorillas that grow less are weaker or have a higher mortality rate.
The project started a few months ago and the objective is to make it a longitudinal study that allows discovering which variables can affect the gorillas’ growth (size, health, experience, mother’s diet, weaning age, death or abandonment by the mother, degree of inbreeding, etc.).
For those worried about the high risk of extinction that over 53% of the world’s gorillas face, it is important to know that the jungles not only harbor poachers and irresponsible companies but also people dedicated to protection and conservation of these fantastic African gorillas.(Uganda Gorilla Trekking Safaris)