Mountain Gorillas and the African Wildlife Foundation
By Craig Sholley
Vice President for Philanthropy
African Wildlife Foundation
Craig’s experiences with wildlife and conservation began in 1973 as a Peace Corps volunteer in Zaire. As an L.S.B. Leakey grant researcher in the late 1970’s, Craig studied mountain gorillas with Dian Fossey and, in 1987, became director of Rwanda’s Mountain Gorilla Project, of which African Wildlife Foundation was a sponsor. He became a full-time employee of AWF in 2001 and now serves as Vice President for Philanthropy and Marketing.
The world’s remaining mountain gorillas live in three countries spanning four national parks – Bwindi
Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Volcanoes National Park, and Virunga National Park.
Infant Moutain Gorillia at Bwindi, Uganda in Eastern Africa
A 2011 census recorded fewer than 900 mountain gorillas left in the wild. The gorillas’ biggest threats come from deforestation and the region’s growing population. The forests where mountain gorillas live are fertile and rich in biodiversity, making this one of the most populated regions in Africa, with 85% of the population making its living by growing food on the land. As people move closer to where gorillas live, they also bring the risk of spreading human diseases to gorillas such as the flu, pneumonia, and even ebola. War in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has resulted in more than four million lives lost over the past 14 years.
The mountain gorillas are caught in the middle of this social and economic crisis. The locals depend on the natural resources and wildlife-based tourism for their welfare. So, the future of mountain gorillas will be closely linked with the peace and prosperity through the land. AWF and its partners are helping the countries of DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda work together to protect and conserve the area. AWF has helped the nearly extinct mountain gorilla population grow by more than 15%.
Mountain Gorilla Infant and Mother in Rwanda in Eastern Africa. Photo by: Craig R. Sholley
AWF also is equipping park staff with the technology they need to monitor the park and help protect these animals from threats. AWF works with locals to help benefit the gorillas and the community. For example, one of our public-private partnerships has designed and constructed community-owned tourist lodges, such as the Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge. These lodges benefit the local people who share their backyard with gorillas by generating income through tourism.
For information regarding our gorilla trekking destinations, camps and safaris, please contact contact us at 800-995-8689 or click here to receive your free brochure.