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Devastating death of a silverback at Mount Tshiaberimu
15 July 2009

Despite an emergency response from veterinary surgeons, a silverback gorilla from a tiny population in the Virunga National Park in DR Congo has died after falling down a ravine.

Gorilla Organization staff in DR Congo are shocked and devastated by news of the death of Kanindo, a silverback gorilla thought to be in his late twenties or older. He is the seventh gorilla to die in the region in just over two years. There are now just 16 gorillas in the isolated population in the north of the Virunga National Park.

It appears that Kanindo fell down a gully at the edge of the park, about a three hour walk from the nearest patrol post. It’s thought he spent four days paralysed without food or water before he was discovered. Vets and trackers stayed with him for three days fighting unsuccessfully to save him.

Gorilla Organization trackers noted Kanindo’s disappearance, and later spotted that his usual companion, a juvenile gorilla named Mukokya was alone. Mukokya’s father Nzanzu died of old age in February, and the youngster had been accompanied by Kanindo for the last few months. Trackers found Kanindo in a ravine. He was unable to move, and he could not be lifted out.

Vets from Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) and Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) stayed with him, administering painkillers and antibiotics, but were unable to save his life. Kanindo died just before 18:00 on Saturday 11 July. A veterinary assessment found fractures and signs of a heavy fall.

Kanindo had been in excellent health when he was last seen. It’s thought he was the father of a baby born in February, which sadly died at less than a week old. The Executive Director of The Gorilla Organization, Jillian Miller, says “Kanindo was a silverback in the prime of his life. We don’t know if he fathered any other babies, or if this sad loss is the end of his genetic line. The death of every individual is important, but losing a silverback is a massive blow to this tiny population already on the edge of extinction.”

The gorillas at Mount Tshiaberimu are classified as eastern lowland gorillas, but it has been suggested that these gorillas may in fact be a unique and rare subspecies. The Gorilla Organization has been working in this area, in collaboration with the Congolese wildlife authority (ICCN), for over 13 years. When the project began there were 16 gorillas, and at its height the population grew to 22. Now the figure is back to where it started at 16.

The governor of North Kivu province, Julien Paluku Kahongya, expressed his regret to see this precious animal disappearing at a time when the province has just opened up again to tourists. The Chief Warden at Mount Tshiaberimu, Norbert Mushenzi, called for urgent action to prevent the total loss of the gorillas.

Kanindo was buried at a livestock farm at the edge of the park where he was well-known to the farmer, who said he was very fond of the gorilla.

for further information or photographs contact:

David Hewitt, Communications Manager
The Gorilla Organization, 110 Gloucester Avenue, London, Nw1 8HX
Tel: 020 7916 4974
Mobile: 07801 971123