Author Archives: abi

The Gorrilla Organization’s Ian Redmond returns to the Congo’s coltan mines with Daily Mirror investigators

Illegal mining for key smartphone minerals continues a decade after The Gorilla Organization helped to reduce the impact of mineral extraction in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Ian Redmond OBE, chairman of The Gorilla Organization, accompanied Daily Mirror reporter Tom Parry and photographer Rowan Griffiths for their front-page investigation.
The organization brought governments, local community groups and the electronics industry together from 2003 to 2008 to create the Durban Process for Ethical Mining.
Jillian Miller, executive director of The Gorilla Organization, said: “The Daily Mirror’s investigation has highlighted the ongoing threat to gorilla populations from illegal mining for blood minerals.
“The demand for these rare metals has devastated the eastern lowland gorillas, and it is essential that we continue to work with local communities and support the work of the park rangers.
“When local people can support their families with farming and other safe activities which do not harm the gorillas, they are happy to turn away from the dangerous practise of illegal mining.”
A decade ago, miners had flooded the Kahuzi-Biéga National Park in the Congo as the boom in smartphones and games consoles caused the price of the rare mineral tantalum to soar.
Eastern lowland gorillas living in the park suffered a devastating decline as they were hunted for bushmeat and their habitats were destroyed by the miners and armed militias who control the trade in coltan ore, which is processed to produce tantalum.
Coltan mining declined in response to the Durban Process and a fall in the price of tantalum, by which time just a few thousand gorillas were left living in the wild.
While coltan isn’t priced at the $600 per kilo it could fetch at its peak, along with other metals like tin it’s still valuable enough to make the dangerous mining by hand worthwhile.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature put the eastern lowland gorilla on its Red List in 2016 as the population continued to decline.
The Gorilla Organization helps local groups train miners and their families to turn to less damaging activities outside the national park, like farming, as well as training and supporting park rangers to prevent illegal mining and forest clearance.

At last, transboundary conservation is formalised with a Treaty!

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Here are all the representatives of the three states who came together to sign this historic and important agreement

 

Hi, this is Tuver,

The Treaty on the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration of the Wildlife Conservation and Wild Flora and Tourism Development was signed on September 22 in Kinshasa at the end of the meeting of the Council of Ministers of the large cross-border collaboration in the Virungas region, and I was there to witness this important development.

The signing of this treaty was reached after ten long years of negotiations! The idea of all three countries (Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo) coming together was inspired by the Kwitonda group of mountain gorillas. For years, they have been wandering between Rwanda and Congo, as have the Nyangezi family and many other individuals. As Dr Muamba Tshibasu, Executive Secretary of the cross-border collaboration scheme explained at this meeting, the gorillas need no visas and will just go where they want, so shouldn’t our efforts to protect them be similarly free from national boundaries?

Also in attendance on the big day were the Ambassadors of the Netherlands and Norway. They watched as the Treaty, which formalises the collaborative conservation efforts that have we have been carrying out for many years now. The Treaty also formalises our ongoing efforts to share the benefits of tourism and to work together to attract new tourists to the region, not only to see the gorillas, but to enjoy everything else the Virungas has to offer.

François Kanimba, Minister of Trade and Industry of the Republic of Rwanda welcomed the outcome of the process of formalization of cross-border cooperation through the signing of the Treaty and stressed that it is an important instrument for regional integration, which will significantly contribute to safeguarding the common heritage to the people of three countries of the Greater Virunga.

Meanwhile, the governor of North Kivu, Julien Paluku Kahongya, in an interview to the press, welcomed the outcome of the process leading to this signing, while the Minister of Tourism of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Honorable Minister of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Rwanda today signed the Treaty on the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration of the Wildlife Conservation and Wild Flora and Tourism Development, which will be sent through diplomatic channels to signing their counterpart Honorable Minister of Tourism, Wildlife, Wild Flora and Antiquities of the Republic of Uganda.

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Everyone was so happy that, after all these years of negotiations, we have finally signed this important Treaty

So, what does the Treaty guarantee? Without going into too much detail, it:

Recognizes the need to conserve transboundary protected areas through collaborative management for the benefit of present and future generations of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Rwanda and the Republic of Uganda;

Is aware that the Central Albertine Rift which includes the Greater Virunga is one of the most biologically diverse ecological regions; precious and fragile the world, providing a healthy and safe except for rare and endangered wildlife and wild flora protection under national and international law

Affirms that States have sovereign rights over their wild flora and fauna and responsibility relating thereto retain and use those resources sustainably;

Reaffirms the need for cooperation among States in relation to the management of natural resources and development of tourism, information sharing on the conservation of fauna and flora, tourism and building national capacities

Additionally, the Transboundary Collaboration Framework Greater Virunga governed by this Treaty is based on the following guiding principles:

a) Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States Parties;

b) A status and equal treatment for all States Parties;

c) Poverty reduction and sustained improvements in living standards;

d) Sustainable development;

e) The participation of the community;

f) Decision-making based on surveys.

The objectives of the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration are:

1) To promote and coordinate biodiversity conservation and other socio-cultural values ??within the network of protected areas of Greater Virunga mentioned in Article 3;

2) Developing strategies for transboundary management of biodiversity;

3) To promote and ensure harmonized planning as well as monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of cross-border programs of conservation and development;

4) Promote and coordinate tourism development programs in the Greater Virunga Landscape;

5) Ensuring sustainable financing for the management of the network of transboundary protected areas to promote the conservation of biodiversity and the development of tourism in the Greater Virunga Landscape;

6) Strengthen and harmonize the production and sharing of knowledge, experiences and best practices for good decision-making;

7) Promote and enhance natural resources and safety of tourists in the Greater Virunga Landscape;

8) Engaging in any other activity for achieving the objectives of the Treaty.

Regarding Obligations of Member States, the Treaty states:

a) Keep the fauna and the flora and develop sustainable tourism in Transboundary Protected Areas in relation to the jurisdiction of each State Party;

b) Take care and be responsible for migratory species at the time of their presence in the jurisdiction of each State Party;

c) Share information for the conservation of wildlife and tourism development in the Transboundary Protected Areas;

d) Participate in annual fees in connection with financial and other resources required for the implementation of this Treaty;

e) To adopt, wherever possible, common positions in respect of treaties, conventions, and regional and international agreements and other protocols related to this Treaty;

f) To appoint representatives to national implementation of this Treaty;

g) Participate in joint marketing of tourism, research, monitoring of flora and fauna, conservation and development of tourism as well as wildlife management initiatives and flora and other activities required to achieve the objectives of this Treaty.

The treaty specifies the bodies of the GVTC, the funding of the latter and reserves, the effects on other international laws and obligations without omitting the modalities of accession of new members. It comes into force ninety (90) days after the deposit of instruments of ratification by all States Parties.

So, this may not be the most exciting blog post I’ve written for you, but, I can certainly say it’s one of the most important. Plus, given the importance of cooperation in conservation, it’s one of the most exciting for myself and my colleagues. Improved cooperation will help ensure we channel as much energy as possible into safeguarding flora and fauna, including, of course, our wonderful gorillas, and that the efforts and the rewards and divided up fairly.

 

 

Hi this is Tuver,

I have been travelling around some of our project sites over the past few weeks to see how people were getting on. Just recently, for example, I visited the Batwa farmers in the UOBDU project.

Since being evicted from the National Park forests in 1991, the Batwa people have struggled with landlessnesmatress pics, low productivity, and a dependence on handouts. The Gorilla Organization has been working to address these issues by giving six Batwa groups opportunities to hire land and cultivate their own crops.

When I arrived on this latest trip, I cannot tell you how pleased I was to see the successes of this project. All six groups had had a successful season, growing 73 sacks of Irish potatoes, of which, 25 sacks were sold, raising UGSH 1,395,000 ($526) for the farmers.

The Nyakabande group had had a particularly prudent season.  Although they grew fewer sacks than the Biizi group (14 sacks compared to 19), they managed to sell more than half by consuming less than almost all other groups.

They had put their profits, along with those from last season, together and purchased 19 new mattresses for their homes (seen in this small picture here). I arrived just in time to witness the deliveries, which were received amongst much joy and the group pledged to redouble their efforts for next season.

As always, it’s good to see the people making good livelihoods outside of the forests, spelling good news for both them and, of course, for our cousins the gorillas who live in peace and thrive.

 

Sad death of Nkuhene

Hi, this is Sam, I am sorry that my first blog post is not good news.

Last week was not a happy week for Uganda Wildlife Authority staff. They mourned the death of Nkuhene – an adult female gorilla belonging to the Mishaya group, led by the silverback Mishaya.Nkuhene Bwindi

Nkuhene’s sad death was the result of a fight between the silverback Mishaya, and his former group Nshongi. Both Mishaya and Nkuhene recently left the Nshongi group but the two groups still share the same range – near Rushaga to the south of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) and North of the Gorilla Organization’s office here in Kisoro.

We think that both the dominant Silverbacks were trying to win the affections of Nkuhene but sadly she got caught in the middle.

It was earlier this year that the Nshongi group divided into two. Park rangers say that that since the split they have witnessed a lot of fighting, and until one of the groups leave the home range, they expect the fighting will continue.

Nkuhene was buried by UWA officials last week at Mukajani in Bwindi National park.

May Nkuhene’s soul rest in internal peace.

Hello from the Gorilla Organization

Welcome to the Gorilla Orgaization’s new blog! My name is Abi and I work for the Gorilla Organization, out of its UK office in London. We are really pleased to be looking after this gorilla blog and will be keeping you posted from our gorilla conservation projects in Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo. Our African field team will be posting regularly on this blog directly from the field so please keep visiting us!!  Before I introduce the team I want to tell you a little bit about the Gorilla Organization and what we do.

The majority of our work is based in the communities living just outside the gorilla habitat. We work with local African NGOs and partners to help communities access all the resources they need outside of the national park. By giving communities access to fresh water, fuel and nutritious food, and helping them to lift themselves out of poverty we are able to relieve the national parks from human pressure and greatly reduce the damage caused to the gorilla habitat – one of the main threats to the gorillas’ long-term survival.

To support this work we run an education scheme that gets the communities involved with conservation and we also work with the wildlife authorities and a number of specialist teams of gorilla rangers. There is loads of information on our website www.gorillas.org so do have a look if you would like to find out more.

Introducing the GO team!

Henry Cirhuza

Henry Cirhuza

Henry is our Congolese programme manager and is based in Goma. He looks after projects over a large area in Eastern DR Congo spanning from Rutshuru on the edge of Virungas National Park to the communities in and around Kahuzi Biega National Park – home to one of the largest eastern lowland gorilla populations.

Emmanuel

Emmanuel Bugingo

Emmanuel manages our Rwandan programme and runs our lively resource centre in Ruhengeri, on the edge of the Volcanoes National Park and Rwanda’s mountain gorilla habitat. The projects here range from water cisterns and organic farming to wildlife clubs in schools so there is always a lot going on!

Sam Nsingwire

Sam Nsingwire

Sam heads up the Ugandan programme and is based in Kisoro on the edge of Mgahinga National Park which is part of the Virungas Massive. The projects here are all tailored to this unique area and I am sure Sam will tell you more!

Tuver Wundi

Tuver Wundi

Last but certainly not least is Tuver, who you will have met before on this blog. Tuver is the Gorilla Organization’s field communication manager and while he is based in Goma he travels throughout the region regularly, keeping on top of everything that is going on and collecting news for his weekly radio broadcast.

Right I will hand you over to the team, but do keep in touch, we would love to hear your comments!