Iyer N, Kahlenberg SM, Williamson EA, Kyungu J, Syaluha EK, Mbeke JK, de Merode E & Caillaud D (2023) Viability analysis for population reinforcement of Grauer's gorillas at Mount Tshiaberimu, Democratic Republic of Congo. Journal of Wildlife Management, pp. 1-17, Art. No.: e22384. https://doi.org/10.1002/jwmg.22384
Reintroduction and translocation programs have been sparingly used for the management of endangered primate populations. Mount Tshiaberimu in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) contains 6 Grauer's gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri) with only 2 adult females. Without intervention, this population is at high risk of extinction. We designed population viability analysis models to compare different release scenarios of wild-born captive female gorillas housed at the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Center in the DRC. We identified the minimum number of females needed to maintain a viable population in this habitat. We used a stochastic Leslie matrix model and a more complex individual-based model to project population growth. We used published demographic parameters for mountain gorillas (Gorilla b. beringei) corresponding to a 3.2% annual growth rate, and then applied a correction factor to female fertility to obtain parameters consistent with 1% and 2% growth rates. We ran each scenario over a 50-year time period (1,000 simulations) to determine the final population size and risk of local extinction. Results from our optimistic (3.2% growth) and conservative (1% growth) individual-based model projections indicated that the extinction risk dropped below 1% with the release of at least 2 or 3 females, respectively. Both approaches predicted similar extinction risks for all scenarios; however, the variance in final population size was higher with the individual-based model. For long-lived mammals like primates, we recommend the use of individual-based models, which can incorporate life-history parameters such as long gestation and nursing periods. Our analysis suggests a translocation of ≥3 females to rescue the Tshiaberimu gorilla population in the short term. Factors such as inbreeding depression, habitat quality, disease risks, and anthropogenic pressures will need to be evaluated in later stages of population reinforcement planning.
Gorilla beringei graueri; Virunga National Park
Journal of Wildlife Management
|Publication date online||06/03/2023|
|Date accepted by journal||07/01/2023|