Targeted patrols by park rangers are a lifeline for Grauer’s gorillas in Eastern DR Congo

Targeted patrols by park rangers are a lifeline for Grauer’s gorillas in Eastern DR Congo


Surveys conducted by WCS and the Congolese wildlife authority show that where park staff have the resources to conduct frequent patrols the number of highly endangered Grauer’s gorilla is growing. This contrasts with the lowland sectors of Kahuzi-Biega National Park where gorilla numbers continue to decline. Increased resources to patrol effectively throughout the park and disarm artisanal miners and others, who are hunting illegally in the park are essential if we are to protect Grauer’s gorillas and reverse their global population decline.


Kahuzi-Biega National Park is located in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), bordering the most densely populated region of this vast central African nation. In 1995 wildlife surveys by WCS showed that the park is home to 86% of all Grauer’s gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri) which are endemic to this region. Kahuzi-Biega is also a stronghold for other endangered species including forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis), eastern chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) and many others only found in the Albertine Rift. First established in 1970, the park was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980 and categorized as “in danger” in 1994, following the genocide in Rwanda and the settlement of many refugees close by.

With the onset of civil war in DRC in 1996, the Congolese wildlife authority (the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature, ICCN), which is responsible for the management of the country’s protected areas, lost control of the park as armed militias moved in. This greatly increased poaching of elephants for their ivory and illegal hunting of wildlife including gorillas for food and trade.

Every 5 years, or when security allows, WCS conducts surveys with the ICCN in the Tshivanga highlands of the park to monitor changes in gorilla numbers and to assess the effectiveness of our conservation efforts in this sector of the park.


Saving Species IconSPECIES: Since the end of the civil war in 2003 when gorilla numbers had dropped by more than 50% because of hunting, WCS’s conservation efforts with ICCN in the Tshivanga highlands have resulted in a steady increase in the Grauer’s gorilla population from 130 individuals in 2000 to 213 in 2015 – a 64% increase.

Strengthening Management IconMANAGEMENT EFFECTIVENESS: That gorilla numbers in the Tshivanga highlands of Kahuzi-Biega National Park progressively increased after the civil war when elsewhere they continue to decline is testament to the effectiveness of frequent, wide-spread patrols by ICCN park staff trained by WCS. The take home message is clear. When parks are well managed they remain safe havens for wildlife.


 GRAPH: The Grauer's Gorilla population of the Tshivanga highlands declined by more than 50% because of illegal hunting during the civil war. Since 2000, WCS's conservation efforts with ICCN have resulted in a steady recovery of the Grauer's Gorillas in the highlands of Kahuzi-Biega National Park.
  MAP: WCS's work with ICCN in the south-eastern Tshivanga highlands of Kahuzi-Biega National Park has stopped illegal hunting and allowed the Grauer's Gorilla population to steadily increase.

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