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Lightning likely killed several endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda

Sunday, February 9th 2020, 2:18 pm - The post-mortem examination of the animals indicates that the cause of death was “likely electrocution by lightning.”

Four endangered mountain gorillas were recently killed by a lightning strike in Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park.

Wildlife officials conducted a field assessment and a post-mortem examination of the deceased animals, which include three adult males and one male infant. The lesions indicated the cause of death was “likely electrocution by lightning.”

Officials from the national park say that this unfortunate event impacted the Hirwa family of mountain gorillas, which consists of 17 animals that entered into this part of Uganda on August 28, 2019 after leaving the Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda. Since this species is endangered due to poaching and habitat loss, a Treaty was created in 2015 to promote the transboundary management of these animals and other natural resources across Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

wiki cc mountain gorilla An adult male mountain gorilla. Credit: Dave Proffer/Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 2.0

A survey in 2018 found that the conservation efforts have been paying off, as the largest number of mountain gorillas ever recorded was found in a protected forest in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Wildlife officials say that habitat loss is the primary threat to the survival of mountain gorillas, with forest clearance due to the growing human population and impacts from climate change being the most prominent stressors. Poaching is another risk to the gorillas, who are either killed by trophy hunters or by accidentally becoming caught in snares that were set up to capture other animals, such as antelope.

There are over 1,000 mountain gorillas on Earth and more than half of the population lives in the Virunga Mountains, which is a range of extinct volcanoes that stretch across the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. The World Wildlife Fund states that even though there is ongoing civil conflict and poaching, the recent conservation efforts have helped populations of mountain gorillas improve in recent years.

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