Environmental Stress in Rwanda's Mountain Gorillas

Lincoln Park Zoo is working with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and Zoo Atlanta to conserve Rwanda's endangered mountain gorillas

Quantifying Pressures on Endangered Apes

Rwanda’s fabled mountain gorillas have faced a number of conservation challenges, including poaching, habitat loss and human conflict. While only two populations remain in the wild, the good news is that their numbers are growing!

Lincoln Park Zoo is working with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI) to ensure this conservation success story continues. Scientists from the zoo and DFGFI are analyzing fecal samples collected from wild gorillas to study the relationship between stress, environmental changes and human pressures. Their goal is to understand how the last two factors affect gorilla health.

The data are also being used to study if, and how, male gorillas’ parenting behaviors are related to hormone levels. DFGFI’s extensive behavioral database is being matched to the hormone results generated by the zoo’s Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology to determine why some male mountain gorillas are such extraordinary caregivers. Answering questions like these helps evolutionary scientists understand more about the origins of similar behaviors in humans.

To date, more than 10,000 samples have been sent from Rwanda to the Davee Center.


Staff

Rachel Santymire, Ph.D., is director of Lincoln Park Zoo's Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology

Rachel Santymire, Ph.D.
Director, Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology

Michael Landeche is the Endocrinology Laboratory Associate in Lincoln Park Zoo's Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology

Michael Landeche
Endocrinology Lab Associate, Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology

Stacy Rosenbaum, Ph.D.
Behavioral Endocrinology Postdoctoral Fellow, Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology

 

 

 

Collaborators

Tara Stoinski is President and CEO/Chief Scientific Officer, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International

Tara Stoinski
President and CEO/Chief Scientific Officer, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International

 

Winnie Eckhardt is Research Manager at Karisoke Research Center

Winnie Eckhardt
Research Manager, Karisoke Research Center

Multimedia

How do you measure the relationship between a male mountain gorilla and the infants in its group? Start with hormones, zoo scientist Stacy Rosenbaum shares.  

Measuring the Lives of Mountain Gorillas
How do you measure the relationship between a male mountain gorilla and the infants in its group? Start with hormones, zoo scientist Stacy Rosenbaum shares.

 

Hormone Detectives
Studying the hormones of animals can inform a wide array of researchers' decisions, including breeding, stress and introductions. Learn more about this vital information here.

Researcher Rachel Santymire, Ph.D., shares photos of wildlife sightings—and zoo work to save species—from her conservation trip to Tanzania and Rwanda.

A Trip to Africa
Zebras. Elephants. Mountain gorillas. Researcher Rachel Santymire, Ph.D., shares photos of wildlife sightings—and zoo work to save species—from her conservation trip to Tanzania and Rwanda.

Endocrinologist Rachel Santymire visits Rwanda for a new partnership studying stress and health among the country’s famous mountain gorillas.

Studying Stress in Rwanda's Gorillas
Endocrinologist Rachel Santymire visits Rwanda for a new partnership studying stress and health among the country’s famous mountain gorillas.

Researcher Rachel Santymire hikes up a mountain to see Rwanda’s famous mountain gorillas—part of a Lincoln Park Zoo partnership to help study stress in the species.

Climbing the Mountain to See Gorillas
Researcher Rachel Santymire hikes up a mountain to see Rwanda’s famous mountain gorillas—part of a Lincoln Park Zoo partnership to help study stress in the species.