A group of four mountain gorillas, one of whom a pregnant female, have been killed by a lightning strike in Uganda. 

Three adult females and a male infant, were found with ‘gross legions’ in Mgahinga National Park following a severe storm.

Mountain gorillas are an endangered species, with just over 1,000 individuals currently in existence. The Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (GVTC) called the deaths a ‘big loss for the species’.

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The gorillas are believed to have been part of the Hirwa family, made up of 17 members who had recently crossed into Mgahinga national park from Volcanoes national park in Rwanda. Thankfully, the remainder of the family were later found safe and unharmed.

Following their death, GVTC led a team accompanied by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and Gorilla Doctors to assess the cause of death – due to the ‘gross legions’, the cause of death was likely electrocution by lightning.

Mountain GorillaPixabay

Andrew Seguya, executive secretary of the GVTC, told BBC News:

‘This was extremely sad. The potential of the three females for their contribution to the population was immense.’

The GVTC added in a statement:

‘Confirmation of the cause of death will be issued after a histopathology laboratory exam of the collected samples, which is expected to take 2-3 weeks.’

Mountain GorillaPixabay

The Hirwa family is one of a number of gorilla groups within the Virunga massif ecosystem, made up of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.

The species had been removed from the ‘critically endangered’ list in 2018 thanks to intensive conservation efforts. The death of four gorillas is still a huge blow.