Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International

Atlanta, GA, United States

Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International

Atlanta, GA, United States
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Gray M.,International Gorilla Conservation Program | Roy J.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology | Vigilant L.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology | Fawcett K.,Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International | And 6 more authors.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2013

Monitoring changes in the population dynamics of endangered species is crucial to effective conservation strategies. The mountain gorilla population of the Virunga Massif has been the subject of intensive conservation efforts, research and several censuses over the last 40. years, but the region has also been affected by political instability and war. Here we present results from the 2010 census, which was the first to utilize genetic analyses of fecal samples for the entire population. The genetic analyses improved the accuracy of the population estimate by identifying several instances in which gorillas otherwise would have been undercounted or double-counted. The population was estimated to be 480 individuals; including 349 individuals found in 24 groups that were habituated for research and tourism, 101 individuals found in 12 unhabituated groups, fourteen solitary males, and a correction factor of sixteen for undetected infants. The population has increased by 26% since 2003 (an annual rate of 3.7%) and it has almost doubled since 1981. Nearly all of the increase can be attributed to a relatively higher growth rate in the habituated groups from 2003 to 2010, and in all five of the previous intervals between consecutive censuses. Nonetheless, it would be imprudent to habituate additional groups due to the concomitant risks of disease transmission from humans, behavioral disturbance and potential vulnerability to poaching. The results show that it is possible for conservation efforts to succeed even under difficult conditions, while highlighting the continuing challenges of managing a wild population of both habituated and unhabituated gorillas. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

Robbins M.M.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology | Gray M.,The International Gorilla Conservation Programme | Fawcett K.A.,Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International | Nutter F.B.,University of California at Davis | And 9 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2011

As wildlife populations are declining, conservationists are under increasing pressure to measure the effectiveness of different management strategies. Conventional conservation measures such as law enforcement and community development projects are typically designed to minimize negative human influences upon a species and its ecosystem. In contrast, we define "extreme" conservation as efforts targeted to deliberately increase positive human influences, including veterinary care and close monitoring of individual animals. Here we compare the impact of both conservation approaches upon the population growth rate of the critically endangered Virunga mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), which increased by 50% since their nadir in 1981, from approximately 250 to nearly 400 gorillas. Using demographic data from 1967-2008, we show an annual decline of 0.7%±0.059% for unhabituated gorillas that received intensive levels of conventional conservation approaches, versus an increase 4.1%±0.088% for habituated gorillas that also received extreme conservation measures. Each group of habituated gorillas is now continuously guarded by a separate team of field staff during daylight hours and receives veterinary treatment for snares, respiratory disease, and other life-threatening conditions. These results suggest that conventional conservation efforts prevented a severe decline of the overall population, but additional extreme measures were needed to achieve positive growth. Demographic stochasticity and socioecological factors had minimal impact on variability in the growth rates. Veterinary interventions could account for up to 40% of the difference in growth rates between habituated versus unhabituated gorillas, with the remaining difference likely arising from greater protection against poachers. Thus, by increasing protection and facilitating veterinary treatment, the daily monitoring of each habituated group contributed to most of the difference in growth rates. Our results argue for wider consideration of extreme measures and offer a startling view of the enormous resources that may be needed to conserve some endangered species. © 2011 Robbins et al.

PubMed | Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Tourism and Conservation, New York University, Arizona State University and 2 more.
Type: Journal Article | Journal: American journal of physical anthropology | Year: 2016

Great ape teeth must remain functional over long lifespans. The molars of the most folivorous apes, the mountain gorillas, must maintain shearing function for 40+ years while the animals consume large quantities of mechanically challenging foods. While other folivorous primates experience dental senescence, which compromises their occlusal surfaces and affects their reproductive success as they age, it is unknown whether dental senescence also occurs in mountain gorillas. In this article, we quantified and evaluated how mountain gorilla molars change throughout their long lifespans.We collected high-resolution replicas of M(1)s (n=15), M(2)s (n=13), and M(3)s (n=11) from a cross-sectional sample of wild mountain gorilla skeletons from the Virunga Volcanoes, ranging in age from 4 to 43 years. We employed dental topographic analyses to track how aspects of occlusal slope, angularity, relief index, and orientation patch count rotated change with age. In addition, we measured the relative length of shearing crests in two- and three-dimensions.Occlusal topography was found to decrease, while 2D relative shearing crest length increased, and 3D relative crest lengths were maintained with age.Our findings indicate that shearing function is maintained throughout the long lifetimes of mountain gorillas. Unlike the dental senescence experienced by other folivorous primates, mountain gorillas do not appear to possess senesced molars despite their long lifetimes, mechanically challenging diets, and decreases in occlusal topography with age.

Rushmore J.,University of Georgia | Caillaud D.,Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International | Caillaud D.,University of Texas at Austin | Hall R.J.,University of Georgia | And 3 more authors.
Journal of the Royal Society Interface | Year: 2014

Many endangered wildlife populations are vulnerable to infectious diseases for which vaccines exist; yet, pragmatic considerations often preclude largescale vaccination efforts. These barriers could be reduced by focusing on individuals with the highest contact rates. However, the question then becomes whether targeted vaccination is sufficient to prevent large outbreaks. To evaluate the efficacy of targeted wildlife vaccinations, we simulate pathogen transmission and control on monthly association networks informed by behavioural data from a wild chimpanzee community (Kanyawara N = 37, Kibale National Park, Uganda). Despite considerable variation across monthly networks, our simulations indicate that targeting the most connected individuals can prevent large outbreaks with up to 35% fewer vaccines than random vaccination. Transmission heterogeneities might be attributed to biological differences among individuals (e.g. sex, age, dominance and family size). Thus, we also evaluate the effectiveness of a trait-based vaccination strategy, as trait data are often easier to collect than interaction data. Our simulations indicate that a trait-based strategy can prevent large outbreaks with up to 18% fewer vaccines than random vaccination, demonstrating that individual traits can serve as effective estimates of connectivity. Overall, these results suggest that fine-scale behavioural data can help optimize pathogen control efforts for endangered wildlife. © 2014 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society.

PubMed | Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Emory University, Ookusa Animal Clinic and Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University
Type: | Journal: European journal of protistology | Year: 2016

The morphology of Prototapirella fosseyi n. sp., P. rwanda n. sp. and P. gorillaeImai, Ikeda, Collet, and Bonhomme, 1991 in the Entodiniomorphida were described from the mountain gorillas, Gorilla beringei beringei, in Rwanda. The ciliates have a retractable adoral ciliary zone, four non-retractable ciliary tufts in four caudalia, and one broad skeletal plate beneath the body surface. P. rwanda has a dorsal lobe and ventral lobes in two rows whereas P. fosseyi has no lobes. These two new species have an elongated body, a flat tail flap leaning to the ventral, a macronucleus with a tapering anterior end, a round posterior end and a shallow depression on the dorsal side, a micronucleus lying near the anterior end of macronucleus, a thin left region of the skeletal plate, a distinct skeletal rod plate, and four contractile vacuoles. P. gorillae has some variations in the nuclei and the skeletal plate. The infraciliary bands of three Prototapirella species were the same as some Triplumaria species; a C-shaped adoral polybrachykinety, a slender perivestibular polybrachykinety, and paralabial kineties in their retractable adoral ciliary zone and short lateral polybrachykineties in their four caudalia. The perivestibular polybrachykinety is joined only to the right end of adoral polybrachykinety.

PubMed | Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, University of California at Los Angeles and Arizona State University
Type: Journal Article | Journal: PloS one | Year: 2016

Sexually selected infanticide is an important source of infant mortality in many mammalian species. In species with long-term male-female associations, females may benefit from male protection against infanticidal outsiders. We tested whether mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) mothers in single and multi-male groups monitored by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Funds Karisoke Research Center actively facilitated interactions between their infants and a potentially protective male. We also evaluated the criteria mothers in multi-male groups used to choose a preferred male social partner. In single male groups, where infanticide risk and paternity certainty are high, females with infants <1 year old spent more time near and affiliated more with males than females without young infants. In multi-male groups, where infanticide rates and paternity certainty are lower, mothers with new infants exhibited few behavioral changes toward males. The sole notable change was that females with young infants proportionally increased their time near males they previously spent little time near when compared to males they had previously preferred, perhaps to encourage paternity uncertainty and deter aggression. Rank was a much better predictor of females social partner choice than paternity. Older infants (2-3 years) in multi-male groups mirrored their mothers preferences for individual male social partners; 89% spent the most time in close proximity to the male their mother had spent the most time near when they were <1 year old. Observed discrepancies between female behavior in single and multi-male groups likely reflect different levels of postpartum intersexual conflict; in groups where paternity certainty and infanticide risk are both high, male-female interests align and females behave accordingly. This highlights the importance of considering individual and group-level variation when evaluating intersexual conflict across the reproductive cycle.

PubMed | Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Karisoke Research Center and University of Chicago
Type: | Journal: Scientific reports | Year: 2016

In humans and chimpanzees, most intraspecific killing occurs during coalitionary intergroup conflict. In the closely related genus Gorilla, such behavior has not been described. We report three cases of multi-male, multi-female wild mountain gorilla (G. beringei) groups attacking extra-group males. The behavior was strikingly similar to reports in chimpanzees, but was never observed in gorillas until after a demographic transition left ~25% of the population living in large social groups with multiple (3+) males. Resource competition is generally considered a motivator of great apes (including humans) violent intergroup conflict, but mountain gorillas are non-territorial herbivores with low feeding competition. While adult male gorillas have a defensible resource (i.e. females) and nursing/pregnant females are likely motivated to drive off potentially infanticidal intruders, the participation of others (e.g. juveniles, sub-adults, cycling females) is harder to explain. We speculate that the potential for severe group disruption when current alpha males are severely injured or killed may provide sufficient motivation when the costs to participants are low. These observations suggest that the gorilla populations recent increase in multi-male groups facilitated the emergence of such behavior, and indicates social structure is a key predictor of coalitionary aggression even in the absence of meaningful resource stress.

Grueter C.C.,University of Western Australia | Stoinski T.S.,Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International
PLoS ONE | Year: 2016

Humans are unique among primates for not only engaging in same-sex sexual acts, but also forming homosexual pair bonds. To shed light on the evolutionary origins of homosexuality, data on the occurrence and contexts of same-sex behavior from nonhuman primates may be of particular significance. Homosexual behavior involving females is poorly researched in most primate taxa, exceptions being Japanese macaques, rhesus macaques, Hanuman langurs and bonobos. We present data on homosexual behavior in female mountain gorillas in the Virunga Volcanoes (Rwanda) and test four functional hypotheses, namely reconciliation, affiliation, dominance expression and sexual arousal. Homosexual interactions between females involved both ventro-dorsal and ventro-ventral copulations accompanied by vocalizations and courtship displays. The only sociosexual hypothesis that received partial empirical support is the social status hypothesis, i.e., that mounting reaffirms the dominance hierarchy. There is also some limited evidence that same-sex behavior reflects an overall state of arousal or is triggered via a 'pornographic' effect. An adaptive function of female homosexual behavior is not readily apparent, and we tentatively conclude (until a more rigorous test becomes available) that it may simply be related to sexual gratification or that it is an evolutionary by-product of an adaptation. © 2016 Grueter, Stoinski. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Robbins A.M.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology | Stoinski T.,Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International | Fawcett K.,Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International | Robbins M.M.,Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
American Journal of Physical Anthropology | Year: 2011

Studies of lifetime reproductive success (LRS) are important for understanding population dynamics and life history strategies, yet relatively little information is available for long-lived species. This study provides a preliminary assessment of LRS among female mountain gorillas in the Virunga volcanoes region. Adult females produced an average of 3.6 ± 2.1 surviving offspring during their lifetime, which indicates a growing population that contrasts with most other great apes. The standardized variance in LRS (variance/mean 2 = 0.34) was lower than many other mammals and birds. When we excluded the most apparent source of environmental variability (poaching), the average LRS increased to 4.3 ± 1.8 and the standardized variance dropped in half. Adult lifespan was a greater source of variance in LRS than fertility or offspring survival. Females with higher LRS had significantly longer adult lifespans and higher dominance ranks. Results for LRS were similar to another standard fitness measurement, the individually estimated finite rate of increase (λ ind), but λ ind showed diminishing benefits for greater longevity. Copyright © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

PubMed | Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and Institut d'Enséignement Supérieur de Ruhengeri
Type: | Journal: Physiology & behavior | Year: 2016

Variability of fertility (i.e. number of births per female per year) has been reported in females of many primate species but only a few studies have explored the associated physiological and behavioral patterns. To investigate the proximate mechanisms of variability in fertility of wild female mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), we quantified the occurrence of ovulation, matings, and successful pregnancies among females. We examined the profiles of immunoreactive pregnanediol-3-glucuronide (iPdG) for sixteen females (seven nulliparous and nine parous females, including one geriatric female; average sampling period for fecal sample collection and behavioral observations per female=175 days; SD=94 days, range=66-358 days) monitored by the staff of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Funds Karisoke Research Center in Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda. We quantified ovarian cycles from iPdG profiles using an algorithm that we developed by adjusting the method of Kassam et al. (1996) to the characteristics of ovarian cycle profiles based on fecal hormone measurements. The mean length of ovarian cycles was 294 days (median: 28 days, N=13 cycles), similar to ovarian cycle lengths of other great apes and humans. As expected, we found that female mountain gorillas exhibit longer follicular phases (meanSD: 213 days, N=13 cycles) than luteal phases (meanSD: 83 days, N=13 cycles). We also found that the frequency of ovarian cycles was greater in parous females (i.e. 20 ovarian cycles across 44 periods of 28 days; 45.5%) than in nulliparous females (i.e. two ovarian cycles across 34 periods of 28 days; 6%). However, the frequency of days on which matings were observed did not differ significantly between parous and nulliparous females, nor between pregnant and non-pregnant females. Five pregnancies were detected with iPdG levels, but only three resulted in live births, indicating miscarriages of the other two. In sum, this study provides information on the underlying endocrine patterns of variation in fertility depending on parity, mating behavior, and pregnancy success in a critically endangered great ape.

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