In 2014 The Aspinall Foundation is celebrating 30 years of animal conservation across its protection projects in Congo, Gabon, Madagascar and Java, as well as through its vital breeding programmes managed at Howletts and Port Lympne Wild Animal Parks in Kent. The charity has successfully returned western lowland gorilla, black rhino, Javan langurs and a Javan gibbon back to the wild.
Through its work in the Congo and Gabon, The Aspinall Foundation’s Gorilla Protection Project aims to re-establish viable, self-sustaining populations of the western gorilla in Batéké Plateau National Park. To realize this, the charity transports orphaned and zoo-reared gorillas to specialised sites deep within the protected park where they can begin a lengthy reintroduction process. Once ready, the gorillas are then released into the wild where they can live free lives.
Why are camera traps so vital to our work?
As rewarding as this can be, however, releasing the gorillas into the wild does present its fair share of complications to our work. Inhabiting dense stretches of gallery forest and reclusive by nature, the released gorillas are often difficult to observe in the wild. Tracking the post-release progress of the gorillas is a crucial element of the Africa project, and enables us to ensure their continued health and safety as they adjust to their new surroundings. In the face of such challenge, camera traps play an instrumental role in the success of our project. By placing a suite of camera traps in strategic locations throughout the gorillas’ home ranges, we are able to track the groups as they move throughout the park and establish themselves in their new home.
Using both photo and video recording camera traps, we can observe the gorillas and the other animals living in this area, in an unobtrusive and reliable manner. By minimising direct contact with these animals, the camera traps allow us to collect important data on group health, size, movement, and behavior while simultaneously avoiding the need for stressful human interactions. The information obtained from these camera traps is invaluable to our work, and affords glimpses into the lives of the Park’s animal population that would otherwise go undocumented.
Why we are raising the money for more camera traps?
Just recently our camera traps obtained the very first footage of the 25th gorilla birth that was born to one of the Park’s largest family groups. Such information not only helps us to document the ongoing success of our project, but also confirm that the gorillas are thriving in their new surroundings.
In addition to this, our camera traps enable us to monitor an entire suite of species that also occur within the Park. Ranging from elephants and leopards to small forest antelope and rodents, the Batéké Plateau National Park is brimming with wildlife. Through systematic analyses of our camera trap data, we are able to provide up-to-date information on wildlife populations that can then serve as a proxy for the health and resiliency of the Park ecosystem. This information can then be distributed to conservation partners throughout Gabon and all of Central Africa, helping to raise awareness and better inform effective conservation strategy.