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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

BIRTH OF TWINS OFFERS HOPE TO THREATENED MOUNTAIN GORILLA POPULATION

WASHINGTON, DC, June 9, 2004 --/WORLD-WIRE/-- The Susa mountain gorilla population is growing thanks to the twins born on May 19th to second-time mother Nyabitondore.

Although gorilla twins are rare, and there is no documented precedence of both twins surviving, Nyabitondore’s infants appear to be thriving, with the promise of good weather on their side. Fortunately, the infants are small, allowing Nyabitondore to carry them in one arm, freeing her other arm to move around and eat. As the infants grow, carrying them will become increasingly challenging for the mother, potentially threatening survival.

Mountain gorillas characteristically bear young for the first time around ten years of age. Then, typically, mountain gorillas only reproduce once every three to four years. The gorilla’s slow reproduction, combined with poaching, loss of habitat from population pressures, civil unrest and disease, has made it challenging for the mountain gorilla population to endure.

“We are thrilled about the birth of Nyabitondore’s twins.” said Dr. Patrick Bergin, President of the African Wildlife Foundation. “The birth of twins offers hope that the mountain gorilla population can endure if protected from threats such poaching, loss of habitat and civil unrest. We are working hard as part of the International Gorilla Conservation Program to ensure that mountain gorillas can make a comeback.”

The Susa group, the largest group of gorillas in the world, resides in Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans), a key region in the African Wildlife Foundation’s Virunga Heartland. The Susa group has only had one other set of twins born to their group (born to Umuhanga in 1991). Unfortunately, one twin died soon after its birth and the other died soon after its mother was killed in a poaching incident in 2002.

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Founded in 1961, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is the leading conservation organization focused solely on the African continent. AWF designs and implements conservation strategies that are based on science and are compatible with human benefit.

Since its inception AWF has protected endangered species by saving their habitat and training hundreds of Africans in conservation to ensure the survival of Africa’s wildlife heritage. The African Wildlife Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization headquartered in Washington, DC with regional offices in Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.

The International Gorilla Conservation Program is a coalition of the African Wildlife Foundation, Fauna and Flora International and World Wide Fund for Nature. This coalition deploys a variety of methods, including transboundary collaboration, ranger-based monitoring, community development, anti-poaching activities and habitat conservation to help the mountain gorilla population endure.

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Photos available upon request.

CONTACT: Elodie Sampéré, 202-939-3338, Email: esampere@awf.org

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