Tags: Rwanda | gorillas | dead | mountain

Four Mountain Gorillas Dead in Rwanda

Thursday, 20 May 2010 11:16 AM

KIGALI – Four highly endangered mountain gorillas have been found dead in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park, likely because of extreme cold in their mountain habitat, experts said Thursday.

Some of the group were found still alive but dying earlier this week by trackers from the Karisoke Research Centre in the mountains of north-west Rwanda.

"While the cause of death has yet to be determined, the gorillas are thought to have died because of the extreme cold and rainy conditions," the World Wildlife Fund said in a statement.

"The gorillas? current range is high on Mount Karisimbi, and at high altitude it will be even colder," WWF said.

The wildlife group said there were no signs of foul play but that the dead gorillas, one female and three infants, have been sent for autopsy to determine the cause of death.

The four were part of a research group called Pablo.

"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, a gorilla expert who is 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," Redmond told AFP.

Karisoke research centre was founded in 1967 by Dian Fossey, the US primatologist who brought mountain gorillas to the attention of the public and who was brutally murdered in the Virunga National Park in 1985.

"The sudden death of the four is not only a great shock but also a big loss for Rwanda and for the whole conservation team," said Rica Rwigamba, a tourism and conservation official at the Rwanda Development Board.

The Virunga volcanoes on the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are home to about half of the world's 700 mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei). The other half live in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Gorilla tracking is a major draw for tourists in Rwanda, with visitors paying 500 dollars for a permit to spend an hour with the primates in their bamboo forest habitat.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved

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KIGALI – Four highly endangered mountain gorillas have been found dead in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park, likely because of extreme cold in their mountain habitat, experts said Thursday.
Rwanda,gorillas,dead,mountain
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2010-16-20
Thursday, 20 May 2010 11:16 AM
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