Category Archives: Environment

Why water for humans matters for gorillas…

virungas massif vista

The Virunga National Park: Home of the gorillas and under constant threat

Hi, this is Tuver,

Gorillas very rarely need to drink water. They usually get all the hydration they need from chewing on lush nettles or wild celery.

Humans, however, are another matter. We need water to survive and, with the number of people living around the Virunga National Park increasing all the time, pressure on the natural resources of the region is growing all the time.

And, just as poverty and hunger can force people from local communities to trespass into the National Park, placing themselves and the wildlife living here (including our wonderful gorillas!) at risk, so too can the need for water.

That’s why I recently attended a special meeting of the Greater Virunga Transboundary Commission (GVTC) in Gisenyi. Here, we learned from scientists that the World Health Organisation recommends that people should have access to at least 20 litres of water a day. This might sound a lot, but it’s estimated that the typical person living in Britain uses about 150 litres of water a day!

Right now, the majority of people living in the Virunga Massif do get the WHO’s minimum amount of water – but only just! However, this only tells half the story.

Perhaps the most important fact we learned at this meeting was that, while in Rwanda, most people are within 15 minutes’ walk of a water source, in DR Congo, 44 per cent of people need to walk for at least an hour to get the water they need to survive.

So, how does this affect the gorillas? Well, getting water takes time and effort. Quite simply, this means people have less time to invest in making money, while by only being able to access around 20 litres of water a day, many struggle to grow crops. And, sadly, this again means people feel they have little choice but to trespass into the Virunga National Park for food and other natural resources. As you probably know, trespassers can, at best, disturb the gorillas or, at worse, lay traps for bushmeat that can snare young gorillas, often with fatal consequences.

Again, the population of the region is only going to keep on growing, so we need to put our heads together to find a way of providing sufficient water without jeopardising the integrity of the National Park’s boundaries. The GTVC meeting, then, was used to launch a new study into the hydraulic potential of the Virunga Massif. Hopefully, by using the latest in exploration and extraction techniques, we can work together to ensure that humans get all the water they need to survive and even thrive, while their gorillas neighbours are left in peace in their forest homes!


It may not be as exciting as gorilla trekking, but meetings of the GVTC are just as important to ensure the long-term survival of our cousins in the forest


…And here we all are after another interesting and useful meeting – transboundary cooperation in conservation in action!


A busy, exciting June in Goma…

It was great to see the students so enthusiastic and keen to learn about conservation and how they can help gorillas

It was great to see the students so enthusiastic and keen to learn about conservation and how they can help gorillas

Every June we join communities across the planet in celebrating World Environment Day, and this year was no different.

This time around the focus was on climate change and deforestation, both issues that are of great concern here, both to the people living in the North Kivu area and the wildlife of the region, including, of course, the magnificent gorillas.

On the day itself I was lucky enough to attend a special conference at the Free University of the Great Lakes. Here, the Provincial Minister for the Environment Anselme Kitakya put forward the government’s plans to do more to protect the wonderful forests we live alongside. Plus, we also heard of the latest biodiversity and conservation projects happening elsewhere in the world thanks to speakers from other big NGOs.

But my highlight was the competition the Gorilla Organization held for students across the city of Goma. In all, we incited 64 schools across the city to take part and share their ideas on how we can best stop deforestation. A number of prizes were awarded for the most thoughtful ideas, and it was really encouraging to see these young people using their minds to think of ways we can halt the worrying loss of gorilla habitat.

The interest in the competition shows just how much Congo’s youth care about their country, including its animals. I hope that, just as our radio shows and our Wildlife Clubs have help inspire a new generation of gorilla guardians, our work in June will have done the same.

Here are some pictures from some of the events that took place on and after World Environment Day. I hope you enjoy them!

The weather may have been bad, but World Environment Day was a great success!

The weather was bad, but World Environment Day was a great success! Check out our logo on the far right of the banner!


Conservation professionals from many different NGOs came to learn and share their knowledge

Conservation professionals from many different NGOs came to learn and share their knowledge, which was very inspiring

Here some competition winners sit on stage and share their ideas with other students

Competition winners sit on stage and share their ideas with other students

And I was happy to share my thoughts with the local media!

And I was happy to share my thoughts with the local media!

News from the International Population, Health and Environment Conference 2013

Hi, This is Sam,

I recently went to Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, where the International Population, Health and Environment Conference (PHE) 2013 was being held. I attended this annual convention along with many civil society organizations, government officials, researchers and donors from across the world. We gathered to share, learn, network and identify the needs and priorities of PHE advocates and organizers.

The conference was spread over two days and offered many interesting seminars such as “Integrating PHE in rural agricultural interventions among small holder farmers”, or “Sustaining and scaling up PHE interventions in and around national parks in Uganda”. We also discussed how we can raise the profile of our PHE efforts and results as this could increase new donor interest in our projects.

Overall, it was a pretty amazing and very informative event, and it was incredible to see PHE members from all over the world working together towards the same goal of improving PHE’s global projects. My positive experience makes me look forward to next year’s conference – but don’t worry until then I will of course keep you posted with news about other projects and events that are happening down here in Africa!


Meet Regina!

Hi, this is Sam,

DSCN0569Just recently I went to see my college Regina in Kisoro, a town in Western Uganda.  Regina is our Field Officer and an expert when it comes to gardening and teaching farmers about organic sustainable agriculture. Her role is very important as her training allows local communities to grow their own food, which not only enables them to feed their own families but also provides a source of income to farmers who decide to sell their crops.

Regina has been working for our organization for more than 7 years and is very passionate about her job. Over the years she has overseen the training of more than 11,000 farmers, including many reformed poachers, teaching them about the importance of agriculture and its potential to alleviate poverty in Uganda. Her dedication to the job has helped many communities around the Virunga Mountains and has made her a vital and much-valued member of our organization.

Here are a few pictures of here in action, visiting local schools and teaching students how they can grow their own organic crops in a sustainable manner rather than rely on the resources of the nearby forest, which is home to Uganda’s critically-endangered mountain gorillas. The pictures were taken by a young Englishman called Luke, who showed great interest in our work. If you too are ever in Uganda and want to see our projects in action – or just want to say hello – then do get in touch as we’d love to hear from you!



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.


Celebrating the success of the Wildlife Clubs in Uganda

Pupils planting trees outside one of the schools where the Wildlife Club takes place

Pupils planting trees outside one of the schools where the Wildlife Club takes place

Hi this is Sam,

As you might know, we are celebrating the 12th anniversary of one of our key projects in Africa, The Wildlife Clubs in Uganda. It’s been 12 years since The Gorilla Organization joined forces with this project, which is aimed at educating young people on environmental issues.

The purpose of the partnership with the Uganda Wildlife Authority was to help spread the wildlife clubs in schools that surround the habitat where the gorillas live as well as to raise awareness on the importance of preserving the gorilla and its habitat.

Ever since this project was implemented, specifically in Southwest Uganda, hundreds of activities have taken place including: planting trees and vegetables in school gardens, arts, crafts, music, drama and dance lessons, screening of wildlife documentaries, discussions and competitions. It’s amazing to see the excitement of all the pupils of the clubs that have joined us as well as the development they have raised on environmental awareness, including the protection and conservation of gorillas!

So far, 78 Wildlife Clubs have been established in Uganda and more than 3,000 pupils have become members. Also members and teachers have had the opportunity to take part in excursions to the Mgahinga National Park, where they gained first-hand experience of conservation in action.

I will keep you posted with more amazing news from this project!

Social activities to raise environmental awareness on the pupils

Social activities to raise environmental awareness on the pupils

The excitement and joy of pupils after having their session

The excitement and joy of pupils after having their session

The Solar Sisters are back!

The excitement and happiness of our ladies arriving at the airport

The excitement and happiness of our ladies arriving at the airport

Hi this is Emmanuel,

After a hard six months of training, our special team of ladies, The Solar Sisters from Rwanda, are back and ready to bring electricity to their home villages!

In March 2012, the Gorilla Organization, along with the Government of Rwanda ,UNESCO and the Government of India sent a team of four illiterate women to India to receive special training at the Barefoot College to become solar energy engineers. This project will be benefiting two sectors including Musanze of Musanze district, (Northern Province of Rwanda) and Bugeshi of Rubavu district (Western Province of Rwanda).

If you remember, a few months ago, the first team of Solar Sisters from DR Congo came back from the training in India and successfully installed electricity in the Rusayo village. They also held a couple of demonstrations in Burusi and Ngitse and the plan was to solar electrify 50 houses in each of the two villages surrounding Mount Tshiabirimu (area of Virunga National Park, DR Congo).

The Solar Ladies from Rwanda arrived in mid-September at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda and the excitement took over the place as you can see in the photographs. They were so happy to come back to their families and friends, but most importantly for having learned so much bringing along a lot of benefits to their villages, like giving the children the possibility of study after it’s gone dark and their parents the chance to work past dusk.

I will be sure to keep you posted with more news and updates about this, but for now let’s congratulate our ladies for coming back home safe and sound and for their great achievement in becoming experts in solar energy!

Solar Sisters arriving at Enttebe airport in Uganda

Solar Sisters arriving at Enttebe airport in Uganda

Gorillas conquered the streets of London!

Colorful gorillas taking the streets of London

Colorful gorillas taking the streets of London

Hi this is Luis,

Our gorillas did it again!

For the 10th year in a row, hundreds of people dressed up as gorillas and hit the streets of London. Most of them wore colorful and funny costumes on top of the gorillas suits (as you can see in the photographs) and got the attention of everyone who was passing around the City area in London.

This year, 350 runners that came from all over the world, including America, Germany, Italy and Belgium, were joined by our patron, conservationist and TV presenter, Bill Oddie. They also were joined by Hollywood star, Adam Garcia who had his own gorilla team that included  international synchronised swimming champion, Adele Carlsen.

The atmosphere on that sunny day was amazing, full of happiness and joy as all the runners arrived with friends and family to cheer them up and give some support while they were out in the streets of London passing city landmarks, such as the City Hall and the Tate Modern. The best part of the event was to see the joy and smile of the runners as they made it to the end (after a 7K run).

The money raised so far from this annual run will keep The Gorilla’s Organisations projects carrying on in Africa and will continue promoting awareness about the gorilla’s environment but most importantly will keep the last remaining gorillas’ in the wild safe and sounds.

Hope to see all of you next year at The Great Gorilla Run 2013!

British gorillas hitting the streets of London

British gorillas hitting the streets of London

Once the gorillas arrived to the end, they were welcomed by Bill Oddie and also they received a medal and a goody bag

Once the gorillas arrived to the end, they were welcomed by Bill Oddie and also they received a medal and a goody bag

Keep your distance, gorilla!

Visitors at one of the national parks in Africa where gorillas live

Hi, this is Tuver,

When tourists have the opportunity to visit gorillas in the wild they are understandably very keen to have really close contact with them, and some of them would like to approach them as close as they can. But there are a few considerations to bear in mind regarding the proximity between gorillas and humans.

For example, did you know that the closer humans are to gorillas the higher are the chances that pathogens can be spread between humans and animals? Well, to prevent this there is the 7-metre gorilla tracking regulation which basically  aims to keep a minimum distance of 7 metres at all times from the gorillas.
It’s very important to observe this regulation because gorillas are really so very similar to us and are sensitive to catch some diseases from humans very quickly. That’s why it’s very important to observe this regulation. According to a recent study by The Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project the second greatest cause of gorilla mortality is disease, specifically respiratory diseases and it’s possible for a single tourist out of the thousands that annually visit the National Parks to pass pathogens, like influenza, to the gorillas.
 It’s a mistake when tourists are allowed to get pictures close to the gorillas and unfortunately this situation happens regularly, since the rule can be quite hard to enforce, especially with curious infant gorillas or enthusiastic tourists. But, it  is important to follow and stick to this regulation to protect not only the present but the future of our gorillas living in the wild in Africa.

As another tourist at The Virungas National Park I keep my distance from the gorillas

Interest in pedal-powered cinema keeps on growing!

Pupils taking part of the pedal-powered cinema in Kabale

Pupils taking part of the pedal-powered cinema in Kabale

Hi, this is Tuver,

Out of all the projects and initiatives that the Gorilla Organization undertakes in Africa, the Pedal-Powered Cinema is becoming more and more popular among members of the local communities of Uganda.

The idea of having an adapted bicycle that, when pedalled, produces enough power to screen films has been drawing people’s attention and interest and the results speak by themselves!

According to our latest report, 5,581 people from the communities of the Kabale district –western Uganda- took part in the film screenings that were held in 11 schools.

Aside from educating people by screening conservation and wildlife documentaries and great apes documentaries, the communities took part in a range of different activities. At each school, 30 seedlings were supplied and planted to encourage the school community plant more trees and to launch tree planting in the schools that had no tree planting activities. A total of 30 guava, mango and orange trees were planted!

The interest of participants has been also expressed to our staff as many of them have asked about the possibility of someone coming to give them environmental talks. The success of the Pedal-powered Cinema is reflected in the following photographs where you can see a lot of pupils very keen in taking part of this activity!

The last screening took place in schools around Kabale district

The last screening took place in schools around Kabale district


Pupils planted guava, mango and orange trees

Pupils planted guava, mango and orange trees


Pupils were very keen planting on trees at the Kabale schools' district

Pupils were very keen on planting trees at the Kabale schools’ district