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Mountain gorilla. © Juan Pablo Moreiras / Fauna & Flora

Mountain gorilla. © Juan Pablo Moreiras / Fauna & Flora

International Gorilla Conservation Programme

Saving gorillas, together

The International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) is a unique collaboration between Fauna & Flora, WWF, Conservation International and protected area authorities in the three countries where mountain gorillas are found: the Rwanda Development Board, the Uganda Wildlife Authority, and the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

IGCP’s mission is to conserve the mountain gorilla and its habitat through partnering with key stakeholders while significantly contributing to sustainable livelihood development.

To achieve this, IGCP has set itself three objectives:

  1. Ensure that the management of mountain gorillas and their habitat (as well as regional policy for this great ape), is driven by empirical evidence from monitoring and research.
  2. Ensure that sufficient high quality habitats are secured and available to support flourishing populations of mountain gorillas.
  3. Ensure that mountain gorilla tourism poses minimal risk to the gorillas and provides direct and equitable benefits to communities living around the gorilla parks.

There is strong recognition among conservationists that a regional, ecosystem-based approach to management is crucial to effective long-term species and habitat protection, particularly for transboundary species such as the mountain gorilla and in areas of political instability.

One of IGCP’s main objectives has therefore been to increase cross-border collaboration between the three protected area authorities and their partners in the region.

To date, this is one of the greatest success stories globally of transboundary cooperation, with IGCP facilitating the birth of a tri-country cooperation agreement that has continued to function even at times when official diplomatic ties have been broken or borders closed between the countries in question.

Hirwa family of mountain gorillas. © Steph Baker / Fauna & Flora

Hirwa family of mountain gorillas. © Steph Baker / Fauna & Flora

Hirwa family of mountain gorillas.

A history of success

We have been working to conserve mountain gorillas since 1979, when our vice-president Sir David Attenborough called a meeting with Fauna & Flora to discuss what could be done to save these great apes. Having just returned from filming mountain gorillas for Life on Earth, Attenborough was acutely aware of the threat these animals were facing and was determined to do something about it.

As he explains in the accompanying video, “When I came back…I knew exactly what I was going to do. I was going to get in touch with this society [Fauna & Flora], with John Burton who was then the Secretary of the Society, and I rang up John and I said: ‘What can we do?’

“And he immediately – as this society does – he immediately put things into action, and the society raised a very great deal of money.”

The actions that Attenborough describes led to the establishment of the Mountain Gorilla Project, which has since evolved into the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, a broader coalition formed in 1991.

This programme has achieved some remarkable successes over the years, including supporting the development of a landmark treaty which was signed in 2015 by representatives from all three mountain gorilla range states. The treaty has not only made existing transboundary conservation efforts easier but also enabled many more coordinated activities including landscape planning and the harmonisation of policies across the three states.

Since Fauna & Flora first began working with mountain gorillas, numbers have increased from just a few hundred to over 1,000 today – a testament to the hard work of all those working to save these incredible primates.

Learn more about IGCP’s work