Mountain gorillas benefit from rainwater harvesting project

Around the world today, people are celebrating World Water Day, which exists to remind us of the importance of freshwater and the sustainable management of this essential resource.

Helping local communities source safe water will reduce pressure on mountain gorilla habitat. Credit: IGCP.

Helping local communities source safe water will reduce pressure on mountain gorilla habitat. Credit: IGCP.

This year, the organisers have chosen the theme ‘water cooperation’, and what could be more fitting than the International Gorilla Conservation Programme’s (IGCP) rainwater harvesting project, which is reducing threats to mountain gorillas by providing safe drinking water for communities.

Water from the forest

According to the latest census results, around 880 mountain gorillas exist in the wild, divided into two distinct populations that span the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The gorillas themselves don’t normally drink water, as they are able to get all they need from their food. But these animals are surrounded by some of the highest human population densities in Africa (with 400-1,000 people per square kilometre living around the mountain gorilla parks), and for these people, getting access to fresh water is very difficult.

Many travel into the national park to collect water, and at the same time they gather other natural resources such as firewood. Some people set snares to catch antelope, but – because these traps are indiscriminate – gorillas are sometimes the unintended victims.

To make matters worse, the presence of humans in the forest poses a major health risk for gorillas, as these animals are highly susceptible to human diseases.

To address this issue, IGCP and partners have been helping to build rainwater harvesting tanks in local communities, which reduces the need for people to venture into the forest and so benefits the mountain gorillas as well as people.

Constructing a rainwater tank. Credit: IGCP.

Constructing a rainwater tank. Credit: IGCP.

In this informative and inspiring video (courtesy of IGCP) you can learn more about this project and find out how the team is making a real difference to the lives of people and their large, hairy neighbours.

Clip of IGCP’s short film Gorilla water. Watch the full version.