Study of the impact of plant exploitation on the habitat, population & behaviour of mountain gorilla

Chifundera Kusamba

Medium-altitude forests house the mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) an endangered species that merits serious protection (OATES, 1996, BUTYNSKI, 1997). The mountain Gorilla population does not exceed 650 individuals who are scattered throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. This small population should be under continuous monitoring in order to study the factors that affect the population dynamics with the scope of establishing sound conservation programmes (WERIKHE et al, 1997). The mountain Gorilla population faces the following threats: habitat destruction due to plant exploitation and population decline as a result from these war-torn areas (YASUI et al. 1999). Recently, in January 2000, we have located and counted 24 individuals in Tayna forest (Beni Territory, North-Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo). The site and the gorilla population within it are not yet documented but from our estimates there should be about 80 individuals (an interesting cipher). Since January 2000, the local population, totalling 3000 inhabitants, in collaboration with ISEC (a local academic institution), has accepted to initiate a project named Reserve des Gorilles de Tayna (RGT). Unfortunately, it is subject to deforestation, which has a negative impact on the gorilla population. For this reason, the present study will be focused on the following: creating a census of the gorilla population in the Reserve des Gorilles de Tayna, studying how much the site is destroyed and an assessing the impact of human activities on the habitat and gorilla population, carrying out research on feeding and range behaviour of mountain gorillas and initiating a sound conservation programme involving local people living around the reserve.