The International Union for the Conservation of Nature recently upgraded mountain gorillas from critically endangered to endangered, putting them one step further from extinction.
As the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund begins its 53rd year, mountain gorillas are one of only a few conservation success stories in the world. Once expected be extinct by 2000, mountain gorillas have steadily increased in number for more than 30 years. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature recently upgraded mountain gorillas from critically endangered to endangered, putting them one step further from extinction.
September 24 was World Gorilla Day, commemorating the date Fossey established her field research station Karisoke in Rwanda in 1967. Today, the Fossey Fund is the largest and longest-running organisation dedicated to gorillas. It is on the ground every single day protecting wildlife and their habitats.
“Our approach to conservation includes a sustained on-the-ground commitment, outcome-oriented science, and food and livelihood initiatives for people who live near gorilla habitats,” said Dr. Tara Stoinski, president, CEO and chief scientific officer of the Fossey Fund. “Today, mountain gorillas are the only great ape species increasing in number. That tells us our efforts are working.”
This year, the Fossey Fund began building a sustainably designed research and educational campus in Rwanda, opening in 2021. Construction of the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund will provide hundreds of jobs and inject $2.5 million into the local economy.
The organisation has expanded its research into the biodiversity of gorilla habitats. “To protect gorillas, we have to protect the forests where they live,” Stoinski said. “Gorilla habitats are a ‘carbon sink,’ one of nature’s best defenses against climate change.”
The Fossey Fund made a strategic decision to expand work to protect Grauer’s gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Grauer’s are facing steep declines due to habitat loss, political insecurity and poaching. “We are working with local communities to protect forests outside of national parks and to provide a haven for gorilla families and other wildlife,” Stoinski said.
The Fossey Fund’s community programs now touch more than 17,000 people each year. “Success is possible when people and animals thrive together,” Stoinski said.