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Four gorillas die in Volcanoes National Park
25 May 2010

During the early hours of Monday 17 May, four endangered mountain gorillas were found dead following a spell of extreme weather in Rwanda. Torrential rain and plummeting temperatures are believed to be responsible for the loss of an adult female gorilla and three helpless infants in the Volcanoes National Park.

Trackers were unable to reach the gorillas for three days during the severe weather conditions. Once the rain eased, routine patrols were re-established and it was during this first patrol that the gorillas’ limp bodies were discovered. The gorillas were later identified as 24-year-old Intwali, one-year-old Mutesi and two young babies who were yet to be named. Three of the gorillas were from the Pablo group, whose high altitude range often experiences cooler temperatures, and the fourth gorilla was recently born into the Ugenda group.    

"Unless the post mortem results show something contagious, it may be just a natural event ... likely to be down to the cold weather," said Ian Redmond, Gorilla Organization trustee and chief consultant with the UN's Great Ape Survival Partnership.

"As in human populations, an extreme cold spell can be the cause of death for weak or ill individuals who might have otherwise recovered," said Ian.

May falls in the middle of Rwanda’s rainy season so wet weather at this time of year is not uncommon, but this season has been particularly devastating. In addition to the gorilla deaths, at least 11 people have lost their lives, hundreds of houses have been destroyed and many farmers have lost their crops.

The gorillas continue to be closely monitored and it is hoped that the autopsy results will be released soon.

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