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Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe e.V.
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Since 1984, the Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe has been dedicated to the conservation of gorillas, especially the mountain gorillas, and their habitats.
Since 1984, the Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe has been dedicated to the conservation of gorillas, especially the mountain gorillas, and their habitats.

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Unterstützung der Wildhüter in Sarambwe
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Das Schutzgebiet von Sarambwe liegt am östlichen Rand der Demokratischen Republik Kongo, direkt an der Grenze zu Uganda. Es grenzt an den Bwindi-Nationalpark an, in dem man Berggorillas besuchen kann; drei dieser Gorillagruppen nutzen auch das Sarambwe-Reservat. Es ist also sehr wichtig für die Erhaltung des Berggorilla-Lebensraums.
https://www.betterplace.org/de/projects/28682
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Despite facing many obstacles, the mountain #gorilla population have increased by over a quarter since 2010
#conservation #Virunga
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A One Health Approach to Gorilla Conservation

“One Health” is an approach that addresses human, animal and ecosystem health together. We founded Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) in 2003 because we were concerned about disease transmission from people to gorillas, an issue that we identified as a threat to the gorillas when setting up the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) veterinary unit from 1996 to 2000. In 1996, I led a team that investigated the first scabies skin disease outbreak in the critically endangered mountain gorillas that was traced to people living around the park who have limited access to basic health care and other social services.
In 2000, we held a meeting with gorilla conservation partners and a recommendation was made by International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) to start educating local communities about basic health and hygiene, where I was tasked to lead this initiative. This was when my “One Health” journey began by developing brochures in English and the local language about the risk of human-gorilla disease transmission. This was also my first introduction to community education where together with the UWA Community Conservation warden and rangers and subcounty health assistant, we spoke to over 1,000 people in 8 villages at greatest risk from human-gorilla conflict.
We thank the Gorilla Journal for supporting CTPH since being founded in 2003 as a Ugandan registered NGO and US registered non-profit. CTPH promotes biodiversity conservation by enabling people, wildlife and livestock to coexist through improving their health and livelihoods in and around protected areas in Africa. We envision people and gorillas living in balance, health and harmony with local communities acting as stewards of their environment. CTPH’s three integrated programs are wildlife conservation, community health and alternative livelihoods.
In the wildlife conservation program, we set up a long-term gorilla health-monitoring program as an early warning system for disease outbreaks between people, gorillas and livestock. We train park staff to recognize and report clinical signs in gorillas and to collect monthly fecal samples from the night nests and trails; when the dung is abnormal from all habituated gorilla groups and during the gorilla census, which occurs every five years. We regularly analyze fecal samples from gorillas to prevent and control cross disease transmission between people, gorillas and livestock, where we also conduct comparative analysis with livestock and people.
We also work with community volunteers from the Human-Gorilla Conflict Resolution (HuGo) team set up by UWA and IGCP to safely chase gorillas back to the park. We train HuGo to monitor the health of gorillas when they forage on community land, a time when they are most likely to pick up diseases from people. Results from the analyses are shared with UWA, local NGO partners, local health centres and local veterinary offices for timely action and to guide health management. Sample analysis was first carried out at a Gorilla Research Clinic built in 2005 at Buhoma, Bwindi’s main tourist site, with funding from the MacArthur Foundation and it was later upgraded to a permanent Gorilla Health and Community Conservation Centre, with funding from Tusk Trust. We also promote the use of energy saving cook stoves through our Village Health and Conservation Teams (VHCTs) to reduce deforestation and destruction of the gorillas’ habitat.
In the community health program, we strengthen community based health care where we started off by consolidating Community Based Direct Observation of Treatment Short course therapy (CBDOTS) for Tuberculosis and then later added community based family planning though the formation of Village Health and Conservation Teams (VHCTs) in 2007. When we started to expand the program from Kanungu to Kisoro district, the Ministry of Health had started to recognize the Village Health Teams (VHTs) made up of community volunteers and we subsequently trained the most active VHTs to become VHCTs. Each VHCT is in charge of 50 households in their village. They promote good hygiene and sanitation, infectious disease prevention and control, family planning and good nutrition and refer suspected TB, HIV and scabies patients as well as those with diarrhea to the nearest health centres. They also promote gorilla and forest conservation, and report homes that are visited by gorillas, which reduces the response time of the HuGo and park staff.
In the alternative livelihoods program, we support VHCTs with group income generating livestock projects for each parish, where the money generated helps to sustain their volunteer activities and meet basic household needs. The VHCTs later reinvested the funds into Village Saving and Loan Associations, doubling their income. The VHCTs have continued to promote health and conservation beyond donor funding, where we have had no volunteer dropouts for 10 years. The VHCT and VSLA model led CTPH to win the first prize of the 2012 Global Development Network, Japanese most Innovative Development Project Award for scaling social service delivery. In 2016, we used the same approach to make the HuGo community volunteer groups financially stable by giving them group livestock projects that bring them together and help them earn an income from livestock enterprises.
In 2015, with support from WWF Switzerland we founded Gorilla Conservation Coffee as a social enterprise of CTPH that trains farmers and buys good coffee from them at a premium price to reduce their dependence on the national park to meet basic needs for food and fuel wood. A donation from every coffee bag sold is given to continue CTPH’s health work with the gorillas and local communities of Bwindi.
Interventions Based on the Work
Within the first year of setting up the gorilla health monitoring program, we discovered that gorillas from Nkuringo gorilla group that were spending over 50 % of the time on community land had the highest parasite burden. This together with the increased human-gorilla conflict prompted UWA to recruit more HuGo members in the southern sector of Bwindi.
We conducted fecal antigen ELISA tests on people, gorillas and livestock to test for Giardia and Cryptosporidium and found that there was a high incidence of Giardia in people admitted with diarrhea at the hospital. This promoted us to recruit an additional VHCT community volunteer in a larger village that had the most Giardia cases and poorest living conditions, and also where the gorillas often ranged in community land. The hospital also educated their patients to collect water from protected water sources.
When we conducted baseline surveys we also found that over 50 % of homes collect water from unprotected water sources and those who did were more likely to drink water from dirty containers. Though we found Cryptosporidium in the gorillas, people and livestock, they were not showing clinical signs. This made us increase our effort to prevent the gorillas from getting Giardia, which is much more pathogenic. UWA put the activity of monthly gorilla fecal sample collections by rangers and trackers in the annual operational plan for Bwindi.
Because of the behaviour change communication of VHCTs and additional encouragement from UWA, Bwindi community members around the park, particularly in the southern sector started to build pit latrines.
We started to conduct joint One Health research through memorandums of understanding with the Kanungu and Kisoro District local governments and the NGO missionary hospital — Bwindi Community Hospital.
Outcomes and Impact
reduced disease incidences in the gorillas
reduced human-gorilla conflict
improved conservation attitudes evidenced by increase in sustainable agriculture practices and use of energy saving cook stoves, a silverback gorilla receiving more protection in community land, and preventing reduced poaching and illegal forest offtake, which is currently being measured through social impact evaluation research conducted with funding from the Darwin Initiative
increased use of family planning methods from 20 to 60 %, above the 30% national average
men getting more involved in family planning and women and youth more involved in conservation
50 % increase in hand washing facilities, anal cleansing material, clean water storage containers and drying racks
significant increase in patients suspected to have TB, HIV and scabies referred to health centres

Measuring our Impact
In 2016, CTPH teamed up with researchers from Oxford University and the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED) to conduct a social impact evaluation study to determine how health investments we have made over the past 10 years have contributed to outcomes for conservation and sustainable development. Recommendations from this study will be used to improve our programs and scale the model to additional parishes around Bwindi, in Mpungu subcounty and other protected areas. These include Budongo Forest led by the Jane Goodall Institute working closely with Budongo Forest Conservation Station and Mount Elgon National Park led by UWA working closely with District Environmental Officers.
Future Plans
We plan to intensify research through partnerships with universities and other research institutions to measure and improve the effectiveness of our innovative One Health model and to scale our approach through implementing new programs in new locations in Uganda and other countries in Africa where we started a project at the Virungas. We also want to spread our impact by training others to implement our approach and influencing others through advocacy.
Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka
We are very grateful to many donors and partners who have supported our work over the past 14 years.
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Conserving the Ebo Gorillas through Community Collaboration

Cameroon is home to many primate species of high conservation value, including drills, Preuss's red colobus, and gorillas (Morgan et al. 2011). Both recognized subspecies of western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) live in Cameroon: the western lowland gorilla (G. g. gorilla) living to the south of the Sanaga river, and the Cross River gorilla (G. g. diehli) ranging within the Cameroon-Nigeria border region to the north of the Sanaga river. Additionally, there is a small gorilla population in the Ebo forest, located around 60 km to the north of the Sanaga and 200 km south of the nearest Cross River gorilla population.
With an intermediate location between the extant gorilla subspecies in Cameroon, the small and isolated Ebo gorilla population is geographically and taxonomically interesting (Morgan et al. 2003, Groves 2005). In addition to primates, the Ebo forest is home to many emblematic plant and animal species; a significant portion of the forest has been proposed as a national park, which unfortunately still awaits legalization by the government of Cameroon (Morgan et al. 2011, Dunn et al. 2014).
With local, national and international support, the Ebo Forest Research Project (EFRP) has been working with local communities and the government of Cameroon for the conservation of the rich biodiversity of Ebo forest through biological research and conservation outreach (Abwe & Morgan 2012). Through nest counts and video camera evidence we believe there are a maximum of 25 individual Ebo gorillas surviving in the forest, ranging in an area of around 25 km² (Morgan 2010). It is recognized that the Ebo gorilla habitat is close to a handful of remote villages where hunting and the commercial bushmeat trade represent an important source of income and animal protein for community members (Morgan 2004).
Two local community-based associations (Club des Amis des Gorilles [CAG] and Association des Chefs Traditionels Riverains de la Forêt d'Ebo - ACTRIFE) are working around the Ebo gorilla habitat to protect this small population as well as other species of conservation importance. The EFRP works in conjunction with the CAG to monitor the gorilla habitat on a monthly basis for threats to gorillas as well as gorilla and other large mammal signs. The CAG groups also conduct community sensitization and outreach activities within the communities. ACTRIFE are engaged in community sensitization, but are focusing on encouraging the creation of the Ebo National Park (ENP) with regular contact with relevant government services as well as elites from the area. Since the creation of the ENP is long overdue, the EFRP together with the traditional chiefs of the area and with input from the CAG are working towards the creation of a "no-go zone" which would cover the majority of the current gorilla habitat. This community-enforced and sanctioned initiative aims to stop all disturbance to the gorilla habitat until effective law enforcement can be provided by the state. This "exclusion" approach is complemented by a strong suite of "inclusion" measures, including promoting knowledge of benefits of conservation activities through sensitization activities and improving local livelihoods through income-boosting and wellbeing initiatives. We summarise some of these initiatives in this article.
Radio Broadcasting
Access to relevant information and knowledge of laws pertaining to natural resources management is limited in both rural and urban settings in Cameroon, due to limited access to print media, television and internet services. Since April 2016, the EFRP in collaboration with CAG, ACTRIFE and some elites (powerful individuals originating from the villages but who now reside in cities) from the Ebo area have sought to educate the wider public through weekly radio programs.
The conservation program "BIOLittoral" (Biodiversité de la Région du Littoral) is broadcast on the national-wide channel of the state broadcaster - Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV). BIOLittoral aims to promote sustainable resource management while simultaneously educating a broad range of stakeholders (local administration, elites, villagers, etc.) and stimulating their pride for local wildlife including gorillas. The programs themselves seek to educate the communities about the connections between humans and their environment, animal ecology, hunting and bushmeat trade crisis in the area, biodiversity degradation, wildlife law awareness, climate change, water availability, agriculture and of course biodiversity conservation.
BIOLittoral is hosted by Albert Logmo - a journalist and an elite originally from the Ebo forest region - and Louanga Esther, the president of an environmental students' association at the University of Douala. Content is provided by a wide range of experts, including EFRP biologists, and is usually presented in a traditional format of a question-answer session between presenter and expert. The program airs every Saturday from 19.30 h to 20.00 h on FM 91.3 Mhz, and so hits a target audience in the rural communities, where radio is an important form of evening entertainment.
Increasing Environmental Awareness in Local Schools
In the long term sustainability will depend on the current generation of children - investing in children today is clearly vital for positive conservation outcomes. EFRP has been working with school teachers in 23 schools around the future Ebo National Park since 2014. As a complementary approach, CAG members regularly visit schools in the communities around the gorilla habitat to educate school children and teachers about the uniqueness of Ebo gorillas. The children in these remote communities lack basic textbooks and other school materials. In May 2017, CAG and EFRP in collaboration with the education authority in Yingui Sub Division donated and distributed 200 textbooks to children in schools in the five villages closest to the gorilla habitat, covering topics such as environmental education, mathematics, science, literature and geography.
Organising the Annual "Gorilla Cup" Soccer Tournament
The EFRP have been supporting an annual soccer tournament between the communities in the Ebo forest close to the gorilla population since 2012. With this event, the football matches forge unity amongst villagers living close to the Ebo gorilla habitat and we take the opportunity to explain and reinforce the communities' understanding of the importance of conserving the Ebo gorilla population as well as the entire rich biodiversity within the Ebo forest.
We organize the event during the school summer holidays since many children and youths come back to their respective villages to assist their parents in their activities that include farming, hunting, fishing, and so on. The idea of a football event that brings youths together in one village near the gorilla habitat for some days is a strategy to animate the holiday for them and to keep youths and villagers out of the forest at this period. The event provides an opportunity to educate and sensitize these "hunter-footballers" about the importance of the natural heritage of their forest.
Today the "Gorilla Cup" is one of the most popular tournaments in the entire region. More than 150 persons participate directly in this event every year, as well as hundreds of very vocal supporters! Since the launch of the tournament in 2012 we have been gradually adding supporting activities to the annual event.
During the 2017 tournament we held evening film shows, using a car battery and projector to cast wildlife films onto a large bedsheet to large populations, often with an accompanying voice over in the local language (Banen or Bassa) by an EFRP staff member. The local community hosted a "fashion show", where local youths dressed in both traditional and modern dress, with points awarded for "originality". 2017 also saw the first "music competition" and the crowning of "Miss Gorilla Cup" and "Mister Gorilla Cup" as shining examples of local youths involved in gorilla conservation.
This year's tournament was organized with assistance from the local administration in Yingui and Association Sportif - HOPE (AS-Hope, based in Douala, its main mission being to promote sports and cultural activities from local communities to cities). This event not only helped us create ambiance, but participants also returned home full of conservation knowledge that they received through many different channels - and we believe that we have demonstrated how a single event such as a soccer tournament can improve the goodwill and openness to consider biodiversity conservation. We are now at a turning point with this football tournament, since other civil organizations are beginning to show interest in the event. The 2018 tournament is likely to be much larger through adding more activities, including story-telling sessions to encourage more active participation by village elders and athletics events, so that we can continue to increase awareness of the conservation message through community-based events.
Implementing Small-Scale Sustainable Livelihood Activities
The forest represents the main source of food and income for people in the Ebo communities (Morgan 2004). Communities traditionally use the forest not only for hunting (with snares and shotguns), but also to collect non-timber forest products (NTFPs). If Ebo natural resources are to be maintained under the increasing pressure, we need to consider supporting alternative sources of income in the local communities.
Clubs des Amis des Gorilles (CAG) committees in the three communities closest to the gorilla population are supported by the EFRP to encourage small-scale sustainable livelihood initiatives. The CAG general assemblies in each village opted to provide a cassava grinding mill to their respective communities. These machines are managed by a team of five persons appointed by the general assembly of each community.
The grinding mills facilitate the processing of raw food, leading to increased production of local food such as miondo (cassava paste wrapped in Marantaceae leaves), mitoumba (cassava paste with palm oil and spices wrapped in Marantaceae leaves), mikono (pumpkin or egusi paste, with meat or fish wrapped in banana leaves) and many more. In the past, villagers used mortars and stones to grind their food stuffs. This was very strenuous and time consuming, and led to a much lower production of commercialized miondo and mitoumba, consequently leading to lower incomes for these rural people. It should be noted that miondo and mitoumba - both manioc byproducts - are staple diets in these communities. Locally, mitoumba is sold at 100 F CFA while a bundle of miondo is sold at 350 F CFA.
Due to the increase in production, villagers have been able to expand cassava farming to satisfy local demands for these products as well as urban markets. These foods are particularly suitable for income generation in the urban environment since these processed food items have a long "shelf-life" - they are often still edible several weeks after production. Proceeds from the sale of these products are now used to cover daily family needs (such as soap, kerosene, clothes and food items), children's education (such as school fees and stationary) and medical attention (including hospital fees and medications). With the grinding mill facility at their disposal, some households gradually have achieved financial stability and even reduced the over-reliance on hunting or forest resources.
In addition to supporting increased local food production, the EFRP has also been supporting other enterprises in these communities. In May 2017, CAG members participated in a training workshop to learn how to make soap, either for personal use or for sale. Prior to the workshop, villagers bought soap from the closest town - the large city of Douala - during their journeys to visit family or friends. The cost of visiting Douala is prohibitive - both financially (at least 7,000 F CFA each way) and in terms of time (minimum 1 day, often 2 days and with no transport from some communities during the rainy season). As a result, the cost of soap in the local villages used to be high - 500 F CFA for a 400 g cube of soap, while the cost in Douala for the same soap was 300 F CFA. Now that villagers have been taught how to make this important resource locally, it will be easier for them to wash themselves, their clothes and utensils and finally to improve the standard of family health. We have calculated that with this training villagers can now make one bar of soap for 200 F CFA - a significant reduction - and this may allow for a small local trade in soaps at a more affordable price.
The EFRP strongly believe that wildlife conservation is no longer a domain best served by wildlife biologists alone. The sustainability of our work needs the support of local communities as well as the expertise from other disciplines such as sociology, education, anthropology, mass communication, and so on. We are gradually evolving our relationships with the local communities around the Ebo gorilla population to move in tandem towards an increasingly positive outlook for the gorilla habitat. While supporting the traditional authorities and elders to declare the gorilla habitat as a "no-go zone" for humans, as a solution to over hunting activities in the forest while awaiting the creation of the Ebo National Park and accompanying wildlife law enforcement, we believe that the survival of the Ebo gorillas also depends on the implementation of positive community-based initiatives to both increase knowledge, awareness and improve attitudes towards conservation.
Daniel Mfossa, Ekwoge Abwe and Bethan Morgan
We are grateful to the Government of Cameroon for ongoing cooperation and research permission. We thank the USFWS Great Apes Conservation Fund, The Arcus Foundation, the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Fund, Fundacion Bioparc, la Palmyre Zoo and the Zoological Society of San Diego for funding and ongoing collaboration in our efforts. This work would not be possible without the goodwill and hope of the traditional leaders, communities, elites and local administration in the Ebo region. Let us continue to work together to conserve the Ebo forest gorillas, their habitat and to leave a better world for our descendants.
References
Abwe, E. E. & Morgan, B. J. (2012): The gorillas of the Ebo forest - developing community-led conservation initiatives. Gorilla Journal 44, 14-16
Abwe, E. E. et al. (2015): Community-led Conservation Action in the Ebo Forest, Cameroon. Gorilla Journal 50, 14-17
Dunn, A. et al. (2014): Revised Regional Action Plan for the Conservation of the Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli): 2014-2019. IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group and Wildlife Conservation Society, New York
Groves, C. P. (2005): A Note on the Affinities of the Ebo Forest Gorilla. Gorilla Journal 31, 19-21
Morgan, B. J. (2004): The Gorillas of the Ebo Forest, Cameroon. Gorilla Journal 28, 12-14
Morgan, B. J. (2010): The Gorillas of the Ebo Forest, Cameroon. Gorilla Journal 40, 16-18
Morgan, B. J. et al. (2003): Newly discovered gorilla population in the Ebo forest, Littoral Province, Cameroon. International Journal of Primatology 24, 1129-1137
 
Morgan, B. J. et al. (2011). Plan d'action régional pour la conservation du chimpanzé du Nigeria-Cameroun (Pan troglodytes ellioti). Groupe de spécialistes des primates de la CSE/UICN et Zoological Society of San Diego
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Strengthening Transboundary Conservation of Cross River Gorillas

Restricted to the rainforest region along the border between Nigeria and Cameroon, the Cross River gorilla Gorilla gorilla diehli is Africa's most threatened ape, with the total remaining population estimated to be less than 300. With a transboundary range, strengthening cooperation between the two range countries is important for improving their conservation management. About one-third of the known population of these gorillas lives in the transboundary area between the Okwangwo Division of Cross River National Park in Nigeria and Takamanda National Park in Cameroon which represents the largest and most important site for conservation of this western gorilla subspecies.
To mitigate threats such as cross-border poaching and logging as well as illegal transboundary trade in bushmeat, timber and non-timber forest products (NTFPs) collaboration between the two protected areas is essential. Improving transboundary collaboration can also strengthen national commitment to conservation when seen as a component of international cooperation. Transboundary cooperation between Nigeria and Cameroon has been strongly promoted in recent years with regular joint anti-poaching patrols in the Okwangwo-Takamanda area to deal with poachers and loggers operating across the international border, annual transboundary planning workshops, exchange visits organized to facilitate and enhance information sharing.
A framework cooperation agreement has been drafted between the governments of Nigeria and Cameroon for the joint implementation of transboundary conservation and research activities. A process is ongoing to create a UNESCO Transboundary Biosphere Reserve (TBR) and a World Heritage Site (WHS) which will include the Okwangwo Division of Cross River National Park and Takamanda National Park. To facilitate this process a transboundary working group has been established, composed of stakeholders from Cross River National Park in Nigeria and Korup and Takamanda National Parks in Cameroon, as well as other relevant ministries and parastatals in Nigeria (Federal Ministry of Environment; National Commission for Museums and Monuments - a parastatal under Federal Ministry of Information and Culture) and Cameroon (Ministry of External Relations; Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development; Ministry of Scientific Research and Innovation; Ministry of Arts and Culture Cameroon).
The working group met in May 2017 in Nigeria to discuss progress on the TBR and WHS nomination processes, with a particular focus on the need for dedicated funding for the TBR process and the need to fund community sensitization and consultation activities in Nigeria. In Cameroon these activities have been supported by the KfW funded Programme for the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (PSMNR) in the South West of Cameroon, while no similar programme exists on the Nigerian side. Representatives from the German embassies in Abuja and Yaoundé, as well as the KfW Country Director for Cameroon were present at the meeting. This was the fourth meeting of the working group facilitated by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Country Offices in Nigeria and Cameroon.
The first such meeting took place in Bamenda, Cameroon, in March 2016, resulting in identification of shared management objectives and a proposed transboundary management structure and a tentative zoning plan. The second meeting took place in Calabar, Nigeria, in June 2016 where it was agreed to involve potential donor agencies in the next working group session and to pursue UNESCO World Heritage Site status in parallel with submitting nomination forms for the Biosphere Reserve process. Establishment of a joint coordination structure to steer the implementation of the Transboundary Biosphere Reserve nomination process was recommended, as well as a committee to coordinate management oriented research activities.
The third meeting took place in Yaoundé, Cameroon, in November 2016, at which the participants revised the proposed transboundary management structure and the proposed zonation of the Transboundary Biosphere Reserve.
Work is now on-going to develop a transboundary protected area management plan drawing upon the outputs of these working group meetings as part of the UNESCO nomination process.
 
Inaoyom Imong and Andrew Dunn
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Variation in Gorilla Behaviour - and Culture?

Culture is a large part of what makes us human. However, we are not the only species that exhibits culture. Culture in non-human animals, defined as "group-typical behavioural patterns shared by community members that to some degree are reliant on socially learned and transmitted information" (Laland & Hoppitt 2003, Laland & Janik 2006), has sparked much interest among scientists, particularly because of the implications for understanding the origins of culture in humans (Laland & Janik 2006, Boesch 2003, Dean et al. 2014). Cultural traits in animals span the domains of diet, foraging techniques, tool use, and social interactions. Cultural social interactions may include "social conventions", which are defined as dyadic social behaviours or communicative behaviours which are unique to particular groups or cliques (Perry et al. 2006, Leca et al. 2010, Nakamura et al. 2000).
One can argue that a trait is cultural a) if it is customary (performed by most individuals of a particular age/sex class) or habitual (performed by several individuals of a particular age/sex class) in at least one site but absent in at least one site, b) if ecological and genetic explanations can be excluded as the explanation and c) if innovation and/or social learning can be inferred.
Among the great apes, the least amount of evidence for culture and social learning is available for gorillas (Byrne 2007, Whiten 2011). To consider if gorillas have cultural traits we started by looking at the behaviour of gorillas in different locations in the wild. We listed potential cultural traits in wild gorillas from five sites by examining variation in the occurrence of behavioural traits that could potentially be influenced by social learning and are not due to ecological or genetic variation.
Three groups of western gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) were observed at Bai Hokou, Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, southwestern Central African Republic, three groups were observed at the Mondika Research Center which straddles the border of the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo, and one group was observed in Moukalaba-Doudou National Park, Gabon. Regarding eastern gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), three groups of mountain gorillas at the Karisoke Research Center, in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda were observed and one group in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda.
Of the 41 behaviours considered, 23 met the criteria of potential cultural traits, of which one was foraging related, nine were environment related, seven involved social interactions, five were gestures, and one was communication related. The remaining 18 traits could not be considered as potential cultural traits, largely because they occurred to some level at all sites.
We observed variation in occurrence of behaviours among gorillas at the five field sites. The strong correlation between the behavioural dissimilarity and geographic distance indicates that a genetic influence cannot be ruled out as affecting the occurrence of the behavioural traits among the populations, particularly between the mountain gorillas and western gorillas, but it does not exclude the possibility of social learning. However the low similarity score between two western gorilla sites that are far from each other (Bai Hokou and Moukalaba), indicating that they have high similarity in the occurrence of traits, in comparison to Bai Hokou and Mondika, which are only 60 km apart from each other, would argue against genetic influence.
We observed variation in the occurrence of half of the potential cultural traits between the two mountain gorilla sites, among the three western gorilla sites, and among all five sites. Half of the behavioural variants reflected differences between western gorillas and mountain gorillas, which are different species. The other half reflect differences within the mountain gorilla subspecies and the western gorilla subspecies. Despite the difficulty of removing the possibility of genetic influences on the occurrence of traits (Langergraber et al. 2011, Krützen et al. 2011), our results are consistent with evidence of potential cultural traits in both species of gorillas.
Several gestures and social traits were observed in one population of mountain gorillas, but not in the other (nor in the three western gorilla populations). This offers some of the strongest support for behavioural variants being cultural since these traits are by nature social (less likely to be environmentally influenced) and these two populations have been isolated from one another only relatively recently. Genty et al. (2009) suggest that a large majority of gorilla gestures are part of a species typical repertoire, but that their use may be based on contextual learning because they are used in a highly flexible manner; this could include the lack of using some gestures in some locations. This interpretation of gestural communication does not preclude the possibility that their use can be socially learned and transmitted and therefore be considered cultural rather than ecologically or genetically driven.
To further examine culture in gorillas, future studies should systematically record the occurrence of particular behaviours and search for variation among groups and possible routes of social transmission.
 
Summary of an article by Martha M. Robbins and co-authors
Original article: Robbins, M. M., Ando, C., Fawcett, K. A., Grueter, C. C., Hedwig, D., Iwata, Y. et al. (2016) Behavioral Variation in Gorillas: Evidence of Potential Cultural Traits. PLoS ONE 11(9): e0160483
References
Boesch, C. (2003): Is culture a golden barrier between human and chimpanzee? Evol. Anthropol. 12, 82-91
Byrne, R. W. (2007): Culture in great apes: using intricate complexity in feeding skills to trace the evolutionary origin of human technical prowess. Philos. Transact. Royal Soc. B, Biol. Sci. 362, 577-585
Dean, L. G. et al. (2014) Human cumulative culture: a comparative perspective. Biol. Rev. 89, 284-301
Genty, E. et al. (2009): Gestural communication of the gorilla (Gorilla gorilla): repertoire, intentionality and possible origins. Anim. Cogn. 12, 527-546
Krützen, M. et al. (2011): Culture and geographic variation in orangutan behavior. Curr. Biol. 21, 1808-1812
Laland, K. N. & Hoppitt, W. (2003): Do animals have culture? Evol. Anthropol. 12, 150-159
Laland, K. N. & Janik, V. M. (2006): The animal cultures debate. Trends Ecol. Evol. 21, 542-547
Langergraber, K. E. et al. (2011): Genetic and "cultural" similarity in wild chimpanzees. Proc. Royal Soc. B, Biol. Sci. 278, 408-416
Leca, J. B. et al. (2010): Indirect social influence in the maintenance of the stone-handling tradition in Japanese macaques, Macaca fuscata. Anim. Behav. 2010: 117-126
Nakamura, M. et al. (2000): Social scratch: another custom in wild chimpanzees? Primates 41, 237-248
Perry, S. et al. (2003): Social conventions in wild white-faced capuchin monkeys: evidence for traditions in a neotropical primate. Curr. Anthropol. 44, 241-268
 
Whiten, A. (2011): The scope of culture in chimpanzees, humans and ancestral apes. Royal Soc. Philos. Transact. Biol. Sci. 366, 997-1007
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Tribute to Kanyonyi

It is with great sadness to inform you about the loss of one of my favorite gorillas in Bwindi, Kanyonyi, the lead silverback of Mubare group. He died on 9 December. Kanyonyi first fell off a tree, but while he was recovering after treatment, a lone silverback fought with him because he wanted to take over his group. Kanyonyi in his weakened state was not able to put up a good fight, and sustained many injuries, which though they were healing, left him weaker than usual. When I last visited Kanyonyi he was eating quite well, but still limping and walking slowly, with one adult female gorilla, Karungyi and her baby keeping close by his side. He made a nest in front of us to take a comfortable morning nap, and we were able to record a brief video. I would like to thank the Uganda Wildlife Authority park staff and CTPH team who have kept a close watch over Kanyonyi to prevent him from having more interactions with the lone silverback until he was strong enough. Fighting amongst free ranging gorillas is considered to be part of their normal behaviour patterns and enables natural group succession. CTPH participated in the post mortem, which confirmed the major cause of his death to be an infection in the hip joint after the fall.
I have known Kanyonyi since he was a baby, when he was born 20 years ago. In 1998, I successfully operated on his older sister, then a juvenile gorilla called Kahara when she had a rectal prolapse. She was named Kahara because she liked to babysit him. Kanyonyi became the lead silverback of Mubare gorilla group in 2012, after his father, Ruhondeza died. Ruhondeza was the lead silverback of the first gorilla group to be habituated for tourism in Bwindi. Kanyonyi was a playful young silverback who liked interacting with human visitors. Over the past five years, he has kept the Mubare gorilla group together and enabled it to grow through attracting many females.
When we started the Gorilla Conservation Coffee social enterprise in 2015 to support farmers living around Bwindi, we decided to name our first coffee blend after Kanyonyi who symbolizes the gorilla conservation efforts at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park since tourism began in 1993. May his legacy continue through stories, memories and the Kanyonyi coffee blend.
Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka
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Baby gorilla driven quackers by ducks trying to make their home
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