Category Archives: DRC

Strategy meeting in Kampala!

 

Hi, this is Tuver,

IMG_5712

I am currently in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, attending the annual staff strategy meeting of our organization. The purpose of this meeting is to reflect on the projects and achievements of 2013 as well as to plan new and better strategies and projects to save gorillas, for the year ahead of us.

Among the attendees we had our Chairman Ian Redmond and Executive Director Jilian Miller as well as our DR Congo Program Manager Henry, and our Program Managers Emmanuel and Sam who came in from Rwanda and Uganda (see picture above).

It is really exciting to see everybody again and to work together on our objectives for 2014. The determination by my colleges to help, not only the gorillas but also the local communities here in central Africa who suffer poverty, is amazing and makes me look forward to the New Year!

Thank you all for your ongoing support and as always I will keep you updated with the latest news on our work here in Africa.

IMG_5714IMG_5716

News from Mount Tshiaberimu!

Hello, this is Jean Claude,

I recently went to Mount Tshiaberimu, a hidden corner of the Virunga National Park in eastern DR Congo, to monitor the few remaining gorillas in the area and happened to come across the silverback Katsavara who has not shown himself or his family in a while.

Katsavara is not too keen on meeting humans and has been quite aggressive toward some of the rangers in recent encounters. I guess in a way his behaviour is understandable as he is trying to protect his family since the security situation at Mount Tshiaberimu has not been the best in years. The constant fighting between military and rebels in the area – let alone the horrible act of poaching – has not only been of great danger to the gorillas but also to our local staff, and since Katsavara only has a handful of family members left he feels even stronger about protecting them.

Lucky me, I had my colleague Odilion’s camera with me, which allowed me to take the first pictures of Katsavara in 3 years from about a 100m distance. His family was nowhere to be seen but we are glad that we at least got a glimpse of the old silverback and found him safe and healthy, and who knows maybe next time I’m lucky enough to capture a new born. Until then I hope you will enjoy the pictures I took of Katsavara!

Photo 004    Photo 006

Keeping our gorillas safe and healthy!

IMG_1841

Keeping a good distance between me and my friend!

Hi, this is Tuver,

A few couple of days ago I went to track gorillas at the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, which is located in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park currently holds 9 gorilla families of which 2 are open to tourists, who are always welcome at Kahuzi-Biega as the ongoing tourism aids the conservation of the low land gorillas that live here. However, there are a couple of things we have to consider when tracking them.

Our number one priority when visiting these great apes is to keep them safe and healthy by ensuring we keep the amount of pathogens spread between humans and animals to a minimum – just in case you were wondering why I was wearing a mask! This is also the reason why I kept a certain distance from the gorilla in the picture, as I was in fact following a rule called the 7-meter tracking regulation. This rule is very important as gorillas and humans are very closely related which means the chances of them catching diseases like influenza is very likely if we get in immediate contact with each other. Unfortunately, this is not always preventable as especially baby gorillas are always curious in getting to know tourists and trackers who come to visit them.

DSC00593

Eastern lowland gorilla at Kahuzi-Biega National Park

 

And now a trustee pops by Goma to say hello…

Paul meets with Henry at the Goma Resource Centre

Paul meets with DRC programmes manager Henry at the Goma Resource Centre

Hi, this is Tuver,

Just a few weeks after we had the honour of welcoming chairman Ian Redmond to this part of Africa, trustee Paul Baldwin and his wife also paid a visit, to see for themselves the work being done to protect gorillas and improve the lives of their human neighbours.

During their trip, the couple went to see mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda – they even managed to see baby Iwacu, our adopted mountain gorilla – and they also visited a number of development projects there and in neighbouring Uganda. To finish off their mini tour of central Africa, Paul and Sarah crossed the border into DR Congo, where they visited the team here at the Goma Resource Centre.

As well as myself, the Baldwins met with Henry, the programmes manager for DR Congo, and together we discussed the current status of the programmes and how the money donated by generous supporters in the UK and elsewhere in the world is being put to good use transforming the lives of thousands of people and so easing the pressure being put on the gorillas’ forest home.

Here are a few pictures of their visit. If you’re visiting this part of Africa any time, we’d be happy to welcome you to the Resource Centre as well – just get in touch before you arrive!

IMG_0404

Paul and Sarah talk gorillas and field projects with Henry

Gorilla Organization Chairman drops by the Goma office…

Ian and Henry talk gorillas at the Goma Resource Centre

Ian and Henry talking all things gorillas at the Goma Resource Centre

Hi, this is Tuver,

Just a few days ago, the Chairman of the Gorilla Organization, Ian Redmond, came to visit us here at the Goma Resource Centre, in eastern DR Congo.

Meeting with both myself and the country programme manager Henry Cirhuza, Ian was especially interested in learning about the work we have been doing in getting young people interested in conservation. Since he himself got involved in gorilla conservation while still a graduate student – remember, he helped Dian Fossey in her research! – he wanted to know all about our education programmes and how they are helping inspire a new generation of gorilla guardians!

Aside from our education and outreach efforts, Ian was also keen to learn more about what we have been doing to help the communities living alongside the gorilla habitat and how me have managed to keep going despite the recent insecurity.

Henry and I took him to see a store full of equipment we will be using to install solar power in the villages around Mount Tshiaberimu, at the northern tip of the Virunga National Park. Once this is fitted, these communities will have a reliable source of power for the first time, meaning they will be able to study and work well into the night and they’ll also be able to use mobile phones – a real lifeline for rural communities in this part of the world. What’s more, by having power, people will have less need to go into the protected forest for things like firewood and food, which is excellent news for our cousins, the gorillas, living there.

Here are a few pictures of Ian’s visit to the Goma Resource Centre. I hope you like them! And if any of you are ever in Goma, you should drop in and say hello, too…!

Ian and Henry reading maps. Can you spot the Dian Fossey picture...?

Ian and Henry reading maps. Can you spot the Dian Fossey picture…?

Ian inspecting the equipment store at the Goma Resource Centre

Ian inspecting the equipment store at the Goma Resource Centre

 

 

 

A gorilla vet pays a visit to Mt T…

Odilon in monitoring on dec 2d-1

Here’s Odlion (a member of the GO team) and Dr Eddy checking on the gorillas

Hi, this is Tuver,

As I’m sure you know, the last few months have been tough here for us in DR Congo. Fighting and general instability made it hard for us to carry on working as normal – which is why I’ve not updated this blog for a little while…

But, the good news is that, while times were certainly hard, we never lost sight of our mission, to protect our cousins, the gorillas, and their natural habitat. In fact, right at the end of last year, our colleagues at Mount Tshiaberimu were able to welcome Dr Eddy from the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP). The manager of the Gorilla Organization’s project here, Jean-Claude, showed him around the mountain and took him to see the small, but vital, population of eastern lowland gorillas living in this part of the Virungas.

Dr Eddy was also able to see some of our other work. For example, Jean-Claude showed him the education and community development projects that will play a vital role in ensuring these precious gorillas have a long-term future.

Mount Tshiaberimu is rarely free from trouble, but the team here are always alert and are dedicated to carrying on with their work, even in the most difficult of circumstances. Hopefully, with visits from leading figures in the conservation movement such as Dr Eddy, our voice will be even louder as we shout for greater protection for this isolated population of gorillas.

Here’s a couple of pictures of the recent visit that Jean-Claude sent over to me. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on all the latest news from here in DR Congo, hopefully more regularly now that the worst of the insecurity seems to have passed.

A happy new year to all our supporters, wherever you are in the world…

Dr EDY MGVP with Trackers on Dec 3ird

And here’s the team of brave, dedicated rangers who took Dr Eddy to the gorillas

 

Goma is quiet – but for how long?

Hi, this is Sam,

As I’m sure you know, the past couple of weeks have been very difficult indeed for everyone here at the Gorilla Organization, but especially for our colleagues in Goma. Here at the Kisoro Resource Centre in Uganda, we have seen a steady stream of refugees pass our windows as they flee the insecurity across the border.

But this is nothing compared to what our colleagues in DR Congo have seen and heard. They were quite literally scared for their lives – as well as for the lives of their families – when the M23 rebel group took Goma towards the end of last month. While the rebels captured the city (relatively) peacefully, there was still fighting, with rockets fired into the city from higher ground and soldiers from both sides out in force on the streets.

Now, though the M23 soldiers have left Goma itself, still the fear and uncertainty remains. How long will this fragile peace last? When will we be able to work free from fear? For now, we can do little more than wait and see how the situation develops. Fortunately, even at the Goma Resource Centre, our vital work is continuing, though, as I’m sure you can appreciate, not at full capacity. I look forward to writing to you again soon with better news.

 

Talking gorillas with the President…

Here I am, managing to speak with the President about gorillas!

 

Hi, this is Tuver,

As many of you may know, through my regular radio shows, I try and spread the message of gorilla conservation to tens of thousands of people here in DR Congo. Without doubt, this is vitally important if we are to make sure our children and our children’s children are able to enjoy a world with gorillas in it.

But, as well as reaching those people living right alongside the forests where the gorillas live, like those communities situated on the edge of the Virunga National Park, it’s also important that politicians have an understanding of just how precious gorillas are.

That’s why, when I was fortunate enough to meet the President of DR Congo, Joseph Kabila I talked to him about gorillas and what needs to be done to protect them. Mr Kabila was visiting the North Kivu Province pavilion at a special exhibition held in the capital, Kinshasa, recently when I spoke with him. Encouragingly, he expressed an appreciation of our country’s natural richness and praised the efforts being made by conservationists working in the North Kivu region, including those working so hard to protect the mountain gorillas.

Though it was only a brief chat – as you can imagine, the President is a busy man! – I hope my message got through. Now, back to my radio shows….

 

 

 

 

Worrying times as fighting break out close to the gorilla sector..

Hi, this is Tuver,

Eastern DR Congo is rarely peaceful. However, insecurity in the region has not been as bad as it is right now for some time.

As you may have read in the news or heard on the radio, fighting recently broke out around the edges of the Virunga National Park. Rebels, some of them under the command of General Bosco Ntaganda – who you may know by his nickname ‘The Terminator’ – have been fighting against the Congolese army. While they had been brought into the regular army back in 2009, they have broken away again.

As I write, fighting between the army, who have the support of the UN, and the various militia of the rebels, is continuing just a few miles from the area of the park where the mountain gorillas live. According to our colleagues working in the Virunga National Park, missiles have been fired into the park in an attempt to flush the rebels out of the forest and tragically, one national park ranger was killed after his patrol was ambushed while carrying out their important work.

Unsurprisingly, this new insecurity has caused widespread panic among the communities living right alongside the park. Here in Goma, hundreds of people are arriving every day, fleeing from the fighting and seeking protection in the city. As a result of this rise in displaced peoples, I have seen the prices in the local markets go up over the past few days. Also, people are having to sleep in churches and even schools, meaning children’s education is being disrupted.

I can tell you that, so far, the mountain gorillas have been unharmed, though I’m sure they must have heard the gunfire. However, some of the rangers who usually protect the gorillas are unable to carry out their routine patrols, so it’s a very worrying time for us.

I’m sure you’ll understand that I don’t have any pictures to share with you as it’s just too dangerous to go near to where the fighting is right now. I’ll be sure to let you know if there are any major developments, but all we can do right now is sit tight and hope the fighting ends soon.

Solar power comes to Rusayo village…

The equipment was checked over thoroughly by our resident Solar Sister

Hi, this is Tuver,

So, after months of planning, fundraising and worries, it’s finally happened. Our incredible Solar Sisters have brought electricity to their home villages!

If you’ve been following this remarkable story, then you’ll know that just a few weeks ago, we got a special delivery of high-tech equipment for the Solar Sisters – a special team of ladies who recently spent six months at the Barefoot College in India learning how to become solar power engineers. And you’ll also know that both myself and my colleagues had a stressful time taking delivery of the equipment and getting it released from the customs people here in Goma.

But was all this trouble worth it? You bet it was! The excitement that the arrival of the equipment into the village of Rusayo caused is something that I’ll never forget. Fortunately, as you can see from these pictures, our resident Solar Sister in this village kept a cool head and got to work almost right away, checking the components and getting the panels fitted to the selected homes.

Now, I know I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating; this will make a massive difference to many people’s lives. For example, now that they can switch on an electric light, children here in Rusayo will be able to study after it’s gone dark, and their parents will be able to work past dusk, too, giving them more opportunity to raise money. And let’s not forget that, since they’ll have a reliable source of power for the first time ever, the villagers here will be much less reliant on the resources of the neighbouring national park, which is great news for the gorillas living there!

So, here are a few more pictures I took on that special day in Rusayo village. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on the difference the electricity is making here…

The men of the village help unload the heavy solar power equipment from the trucks

And then the ladies get to work installing the solar panels!