Rare Mountain Gorillas Die in Lightning Strike.

Rare Mountain Gorillas Die in Lightning Strike.
Rare Mountain Gorillas Die in Lightning Strike.

Mountain gorillas, a subspecies of the Eastern gorilla is amongst the most endangered primate species. The gorillas have thicker fur as compared to other great apes like baboons, chimpanzees, and bonobos. The apes mainly wander around the Mgahinga park. The park lies within the Virunga Massif mountain range, which sits astride Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC.

In 2008 only 680 of the great apes existed in the wild. However, through conservation efforts and anti-poaching patrols, things turned around. The ape’s numbers rose to more than 1,000. These efforts also led to the mountain gorilla moving from critically endangered” to “endangered” on the IUCN`s “Red List” of the threatened species. Nevertheless, in spite of these apes’ numbers increasing, the loss of any of their lives greatly hinders their survival.

Mountain Gorilla protection measures

In the conservation efforts, protection of mountain gorillas involved restriction from certain unprotected areas. Areas in the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda house most protected areas. One of the most important conservation sites in the world is the Virunga massif. The massif is shared with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Virunga massif is considered one very important place. This area is important because it is one of only two places where mountain gorillas are found.

Death of Four Rare Mountain Gorillas

On February 3rd, 2020 in Mgahinga National Park in southwest Uganda, four mountain gorillas died suddenly. The park situated in the Virunga massif range of mountains sits astride the borders of Rwanda, the DRC, and Uganda. A severe storm hit the National park in February. The storm coughed up a single lightning strike that killed four rare mountain gorillas.

Three adult female mountain gorillas, one of which was pregnant, and one infant male died at Mgahinga National Park. The potential of the three females to contribute to the population was huge. Concern for the endangered species` future became inevitable with the four losses occurring.

The mountain gorillas had originally entered Mgahinga National Park in August last year. The apes entered the park from Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Around 400 gorillas flow freely between the Rwandan protected area and Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Hirwa Family

The four mountain gorillas were members of a larger group of 17 called the Hirwa family. Hirwa locally translated means ‘lucky one’ in Kinyarwanda. The Hirwa gorilla family has been one of the most visited gorilla families in Rwanda. In addition, the family had even been reportedly featuring in a BBC documentary. 13 members of this group survived the storm and looked healthy.

Mountain Gorillas Post-mortem

Investigators conducted an inspection of the bodies of the four mountain gorillas that died. The Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (GVTC) made a statement on 3rd February. During the report, he said investigators found gross lesions on the bodies of the apes. For this reason, it was likely the cause of death for all four gorillas would be electrocution by lightning.

The Transboundary collaboration further stated that scientists would carry out laboratory confirmation. Confirmation of the cause of death would take two to three weeks, following exams of tissue samples of the mountain gorillas.

The executive secretary of the GVTC Andrew Seguya said: “The news of the deaths is very sad.”

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