About the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund

Dear Furless Friends,

Since most people can’t make it to the jungles of Africa, we are pretending the jungles are in Austin, Texas. Keep your eyes open because on January 22, 2012, there will be hundreds of people dressed as mountain gorillas running through the streets of downtown Austin. The Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund is hosting the 1st Annual Austin Gorilla Run and all of us are helping to keep Dian Fossey’s dream alive. Remember the movie “Gorillas in the Mist”?

This is where we need your help…..So what’s our story?

In 1985, Dian Fossey was murdered. The Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund (MGCF) took the initiative to keep her dream alive. When MGCF took over the project there were only 248 mountain gorillas left in the WORLD. Because of the projects that MGCF oversees there are now 723 in the countries of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A mountain gorilla can only be seen in Africa, these animals do not survive in captivity therefore they’ll never been seen in any zoo.

Mountain Gorillas are one of our closest relatives, sharing 98.6% of our DNA. This makes them the closest link to mankind and we are trying to help keep these animals from extinction. MGCF introduced veterinary medicine back in 1986 with a project called Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project. The local governments are convinced that this project saved the gorillas from extinction during the war in the mid 90′s.

Dr. John Bosco Nizeyi teaching dung and urine sample collection to a couple new students.

MGCF developed a veterinary education department in central Africa’s largest University called, Makerere University. This program is educating local Ugandans and Rwandans to become veterinarians. The current facility at the University has outgrown itself and we need to raise the funds to create more room for education. After graduation, they first protect the mountain gorilla, then expand to other wildlife in Uganda and Rwanda. MGCF needs support in raising funds to build an expansion that will provide new lecture halls and a wildlife museum to conserve gorilla remains for future studying. MGCF was the first in the world to ever build an “on location” veterinary center in 1986 for the protection of endangered animals. Since then, 20 expatriate veterinarians have served in the countries and now locals have been educated enough to take over and protect their own wildlife. This is a great thing for central Africa!

How are we doing this…..

We are asking each gorilla to raise a minimum of $250 and it’s very easy. Just log on to the events web site at http://www.active.com/donate/AustinGorillaRun2012 and after submitting your donation make sure to list the person which you are supporting in the run. If you don’t know anybody in the run no problem, just put your name.
During these difficult economical times, your help is very important to the gorillas. Please help in any way you can. Thanks so much from all the gorillas.

Fundraising Plan in Pictures

The Volcano Veterinary Center started in 1986, a tiny clinic established by the Morris Animal Foundation at the request of the late anthropologist, Dr. Dian Fossey. For 18 years, Dr. Fossey studied the mountain gorillas’ behavior, social interaction and their environment in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Her studies indicated that the number of mountain gorillas was rapidly declining – much of the decline due to humans. By the mid-1980s, only 248 known mountain gorillas remained in the world. Dr. Fossey quickly changed her emphasis from mountain gorilla behavior to preservation. In large part due to human influence within the park, this tiny population was dwindling rapidly due to respiratory illnesses and life-threatening injuries caused by traps and snares. At that time, health care was not available to the mountain gorillas.

In 1985, Dr. Fossey met with wildlife enthusiast Ruth Morris Keesling, whose father was Dr. Mark Morris, founder of the Morris Animal Foundation and requested funding for a veterinary program. Ms. Keesling responded with the idea of a veterinary clinic. Sadly, Dr. Fossey’s death followed this request. Fortunately, the promise was kept. The Foundation responded by working with the Rwandan government to create a health-care policy that would protect the mountain gorillas. It built a veterinary center and hired a veterinarian, whose job was to provide medical care to gorillas that sustained human-caused illnesses or injuries.

One thing that is killing these animals…..

Snares are set on the ground to catch either deer 0r dyker as a food source. Unfortunately, the gorilla will get caught in these traps. The people are not going after the gorilla but still is a huge problem. They dig a hole in the ground and put this rope or wire noose around the hole. The other end is tied off to a bent over bamboo pole that acts as a spring.

The snares, an example of a human-induced injury, cause deep lacerations often leading to gangrene and possibly death if they are not removed.

In 1986, Dr. Jim Foster was the very first veterinarian to go to Rwanda and work for the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project. A project that was funded by Ruth Morris Keesling and the Morris Animal Foundation. It was very basic and in great need of supplies.

Dr. Foster’s mission was first to observe the gorilla and its surroundings just to get an idea how to develop a veterinary program. He spent countless hours with the gorillas and wrote up plans that were submitted back to Ruth for medical and equipment needs.

Through generous donations, this program was started and Dr. Foster could now continue the medical protection from human dieases, snares and poaching.

At Makerere University we have created what is called, the WARM Department or the Wildlife Animal Resources Management Department. MGCF received the wildlife curriculum from the University of California at Davis, and gave it to them. It took them a couple of years to figure out what would be applicable to African medicine versus the western world medicine, we now have the entire building for the professors and a laboratory. This department teaches the locals how to become qualified in wildlife health management for the protection of the gorilla as well as other forms of wildlife in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic of the Congo.

Many health related problems and ecological research works have been accomplished and published e.g investigation of gorilla health threats posed by Capillaria hepatic worms, Sarcoptic mange mites, enteric protozoa such as Cryptosporidiosis, bacterial infections and the possibility of the gorillas acquiring drug resistance strains of such bacteria. So many local Ugandan, Rwandan, Tanzanian, Kenyan and Congolese want to be educated in this department that it has become too small for good education.

Over the years, this department has become so popular with the locals that they want to be educated in wildlife health management, the current structure has outgrown itself.

* Class rooms are over crowded.

* Supplies are limited.

* Medical equipment is in high demand.

* Currently, all samples that are collected from necropsies need to be sent off to Germany to be analyzed. By the time the samples are diagnosed and the full report is back to the WARM Department more animals have died.

The laboratory is over crowded with equipment and students. No room for storage and counter space for microscopes and incubators.

These students all have a great passion for wildlife not only in Uganda but all over the continent of Africa. We are a firm believer that education is the answer to the survival of the mountain gorilla and continued research is needed for cures that always confront the wildlife and threaten their existence. The current situation which is quite terrifying is the outbreak of the Ebola virus that is in central Congo. It’s moving at a fast rate and looking at its current path, the virus goes right over the area where the mountain gorilla live. We have to find a vaccine to stop this or the gorillas are gone.

Veterinarians in action removing a snare from a young female gorilla in Rwanda.

Currently, MGCF is working with the Makerere University to construct a larger building to continue this education. The students want it, the university wants it and MGCF is committed to complete it for the good of all the wildlife of Africa. MGCF, through the efforts of Gorilla Runs, is trying to raise the much needed funds and when it’s completed it will be the largest veterinary research facility on the continent of Africa.

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