Protecting the Mountain Gorilla in Virunga

Vanishing Treasures focuses on protecting mountain gorillas within Rwanda and Uganda, and works with the protected authorities and adjacent communities of the Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda), and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Uganda) and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (Uganda). While the programme will not be implemented in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), it is anticipated to involve colleagues from the country in technical meetings.

The programme aims to better understand the diverse impacts of climate change on communities, gorillas and their habitats, as well as current and possible future vulnerabilities and responses.

Data Collection

Since the beginning of primatologist Dian Fossey’s field work in the 1960s data on demography and ecology of mountain gorillas has been continuously collected. But despite significant academic research, knowledge gaps remain on the impact of climate change on mountain gorillas and surrounding human communities.

Our partners at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology are leading a research study, looking into long-term existing datasets, with the objective to answer the questions: has the local climate changed? Did that change affect vegetation and ecosystems? How did mountain gorillas respond in their movement patterns and diet?

This study will identify future research needs and prepare for future field data collection to be carried out at a later stage.

The mountain gorilla Gorilla beringei beringei is one of two sub-species of the eastern gorilla. Adult males are known as “silverbacks” due to the characteristic silver hair that develops on their back from maturity. Gorillas are almost completely vegetarian and live in social groups of between 7 and 16 individuals. © Johannes Refisch


We combine the collected information with climate models to identify potential vulnerabilities under future climate scenarios as well as climate-driven shifts in habitat quality and productivity.

Policy Integration

We use the knowledge acquired via the Vanishing Treasures programme to equip government officials and local partners with tools and methods to integrate sustainable buffer zone and land management with a particular focus on mountain gorillas.

Regional consultation meeting in Musanze, Rwanda.

© Johannes Refisch

Implementation of Pilot Solutions

Finally, we will also work hand in hand with local communities, wildlife conservancies and protected area authorities to implement measures to reduce human-wildlife conflict, as well as create sustainable buffer zones and land management.

The ultimate objective is to ensure the co-existence of people and wildlife in these times of rapid climate and environmental change.


To find out more about our implementing partners on the ground:

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International International Gorilla Conservation Programme Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

The Vanishing Treasures programme area at Nkuringo on the south-west side of Bwindi National park, Uganda, is a buffer zone. © Johannes Refisch