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Four members of Hirwa mountain gorilla group killed in lightning strike

The Hirwa mountain gorilla group is recovering after a tragic accident killed four of its members in a lightning strike

The Hirwa mountain gorilla group is recovering after four of its members died after being hit by lightning during a heavy storm.

The 17-strong family had crossed over the border from the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda into the Mghinga National Park in Uganda when tragedy struck. Rangers found the bodies of the deceased gorillas – three adult females and one young male – and carried out postmortem examinations.

According to a statement released by the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (GVTC), all four died from ‘electrocution by lightning’. The remaining 13 members of the Hirwa group were found safe and sound nearby.

Jillian Miller, Executive Director of the Gorilla Organization says: “This is such a tragedy. The Hirwa group is very well known and popular with tourists. And, with fewer than 1,200 mountain gorillas left in the world, every loss is a big blow to our conservation efforts.

“The Hirwa was formed in 2006 and has been growing steadily ever since. It is especially sad that three breeding-age females have been killed, but I am hopeful that the group can recover.”

The Hirwa group is one of several that regularly crosses the borders separating Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. Ongoing conservation efforts in all three countries have ensured mountain gorilla numbers have been steadily rising over the past decade, with the latest census showing just under 1,200 individuals in existence. However, as well as natural hazards such as lightning, the gorillas also remain under serious threat from poaching and habitat loss.