Category Archives: Successes

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!

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Strategy meeting in Kampala!

 

Hi, this is Tuver,

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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.

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Relfecting on a good year and making plans for 2012..

Here is a picture from the meeting. From left to right you can see: Emmanuel, our Rwandan Programme Manager,  Sam, our Ugandan Programme Manager and Henry, our Congolese Programme Manager, and Jillian Miller, our Executive Director

Here is a picture from the meeting. From left to right you can see: Emmanuel, our Rwandan Programme Manager, Sam, our Ugandan Programme Manager and Henry, our Congolese Programme Manager, and Jillian Miller, our Executive Director

Hi, this is Tuver,

I’ve just got back to Goma after going to Kampala to attend the Gorilla Organization’s annual strategy meeting. As always, it was great to catch up with my colleagues from other countries and talk about how our respective projects are helping transform communities and safeguard gorillas. It’s really inspiring to see everyone working towards a common goal and to see how your generous support is helping make a real difference in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo.

Joined by our director Jillian Miller, we began the meeting discussing what we have achieved over the past 12 months and it was clear from listening to my colleagues that our conservation and poverty reduction projects have continued to meet, and in some cases even exceed, their targets.

We also talked about our plans for the year ahead. We are hoping to implement more than 20 projects across the three countries in 2012, all of them geared towards helping both the gorillas and the people who live alongside their forest home. Activities supported will include beekeeping in Kisoro, Uganda, conservation radio programmes in Goma, DR Congo and agricultural training in Rwanda.

It’ll certainly be a busy, and hopefully a highly-productive, year! I look forward to keeping you updated with news on our work here in Africa and thank you for your ongoing support.

Kisoro Queen Bee Rearing Centre a hive of activity…

Tom Munyakibina welcomed me to the Kisoro Queen Bee Rearing Centre

Tom Munyakibina welcomed me to the Kisoro Queen Bee Rearing Centre

Hi, this is Tuver,

Just recently, I paid a visit to the Queen Bee Rearing Centre in Kisoro District, Uganda. Set up by the Gorilla Organization in 2009, this exciting initiative is making a real difference to the lives of local communities and helping to ease the pressure being placed on the gorillas’ forest home.

Rather than heading into the Mgahinga National Park to set up hives in the trees there, the centre allows the district’s beekeepers to do this away from the gorillas’ protected habitat. Under the guidance of Tom Munyakibina and Francis Sekabuga, keepers are taught the latest techniques, enabling them to increase their own yields. At present, the centre’s hives are producing 90kg of honey per season, with this collected over the course of three weeks.

Additionally, Tom and Francis are successfully breeding queen bees, meaning communities across the Kisoro District will be able to benefit from their own hives, providing them with a sustainable and gorilla-friendly source of food and income!

Below you can see a couple of pictures I took on my visit…

Just some of the Gorilla Organization's many hives that are helping to ease the pressure on gorilla habitat

Some of the Gorilla Organization's many hives helping to ease the pressure on gorilla habitat

Tom was keen to show me how the centre is enjoying an upturn in honey production

Tom was keen to show me how the centre is enjoying an upturn in honey production

Update on baby gorilla twins

Hello this is Tuver,

I have just got back to the office in Goma after a trip to Kahuzi Biega National Park. I was hoping to get some photos of the new baby twins that were born into Chiminuka’s group in November. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to see the twins, their mother is being very protective of them and is keeping them away – which is great as she is keeping them very safe, but a shame that we don’t have any photos to show you.
Tuver with Chiminuka
I did however see Chiminuka (this is a photo of me with Chiminuka) – I have had the privilege of meeting him many times but I am always amazed at how strong and handsome he is. We were also delighted to see one of the other sets of twins in Chiminuka’s family. The photo below is of one of the twins up a tree – the rangers say the twins are now two years old and although they don’t yet have names they are looking forward to naming them soon.
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Fingers crossed we will get some photos of the new born twins very soon!

Update from India

Hi this is Tuver,

Thank you all for your comments and interest in the ladies who have travelled to India from the DRC to take part in our unique initiative to promote sustainable development and support gorilla conservation in the Virungas.

I have been having weekly contact with the women in India and Bunker Roy, who is the manager at the college there – the women are doing amazingly well! During the past few weeks they have learnt how to make solar lanterns and the circuits that will power the lanterns, and in the last 20 days they have made 10 lanterns and 15 circuits, which is an excellent achievement – Bunker tells me most trainees take 2 months to achieve this. What I find so amazing about this whole project is the way the ladies are learning and communicating – all the Congolese ladies speak Swahili, a language that is not spoken by anyone else at the college. All the learning and communication is done through diagrams and colours!

The Congolese women are training  with women from  Kenya, Burkina Faso, Guatemala, Colombia, Jordan   and   Indian  trainers. So they are meeting people from all over the world. The ladies tall me they are enjoying the Indian food and really interested in learning all about the Tilonia culture.

Here are some photos of the ladies at work in India!!

CONGO-WBSE's at Barefoot College 1 (4)

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CONGO-WBSE's at Barefoot College 1 (5)

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Gorilla conservation goes pedal powered!

Hi this is Sam at the Gorilla Organization’s Ugandan resource centre. The last couple of weeks have been very exciting for us. We have launched a brand new gorilla consrervation project in Western Uganda – Africa’s very first pedal powered cinema for conservation! This innovative cinema will be showing educational conservation films to school children and communities in some of the most rural villages on the edge of Mgahinga National Park. Prior to the launch of this project, many of the children, and even their teachers, had never seen a film before – and many had never seen images of gorillas.

Here is a photo of the pedal-powered cinema in action. The viewers take it in turns to pedal the bike, which generates enough energy to power the film!

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Madeline Westwood, the director of the Great Apes Film initiative, who is partnering with the Gorilla Organization on this project, and Colin Tonks, the “wonder technician” and inventor of the cinema, came to Uganda from the UK to set this project running.

The first film showings were amazing – at one screening as many as 800 children came along to enjoy the Gorilla Organization’s film. And they were so excited – it was wonderful to see. The bike adds an extra element of audience participation to the screenings and children where queuing up to do some pedaling and power the film!

The children were amazed at what they saw. Some were so interested in the gorillas, and are now so desperate to protect them that they wanted us to make sure that their parents could watch the film too – I have no doubt that each and every one of them went home to tell their families about what they had seen. This is a huge step for gorilla conservation – the more local people who what to protect the gorillas, the more likely the gorillas are to survive long into the future.

As well as providing invaluable conservation education, the bikes provide an entirely clean source of power. No petrol is needed, no electricity is needed and as a result there is no negative environmental impact of showing these films.

Conservation education is now reaching remote communities, villages with no electricity and a whole host of others who have never before been able to see films or access this type of education – for this we are extremely proud.  In the three weeks that the project has been running 11,600 school children, 184 teachers, 110 soldiers and 46 park rangers, all living around the Ugandan gorilla habitats, have seen the films – wow!

Here is a photo of children transfixed by the film and the bike in motion!

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Great Gorilla Run

Hello this is Emmanuel, I am the Gorilla Organization’s Rwandan Programme Manager.

This coming Saturday is the annual Great Gorilla Run in London, UK. Hundreds of people dress up as gorillas and run around the city to raise money for our projects out here in Africa – it is an amazing event.

Three years ago I was given the fantastic opportunity to travel to London and take part in the Great Gorilla Run – it was one of the best days of my life!

When I was told that I was going to London It was difficult to imagine what it would be like. And when I was told that I would be running 7kms around London dressed in gorilla suit … well, that was another point. I think my neighbours still remember seeing me running through the streets of Gisenyi, my town in Rwanda, as I trained for the Great Gorilla Run.

September arrived and I travelled more than 6000km to reach London. I was really excited to see what this town, which I have heard so much about, was really like!

The D-day arrived, and I met all the other gorilla runners at Minster Court and started putting on my gorilla suit. I was happy to wear number 700, the number of Mountain gorillas living in the world at the time.

Great Gorilla Run get ready to go

Until then, I was confident with my training, my thoughts were to win it. However, I realised that this was not going to be an easy run. As I waited at the start it was so strange seeing many different people excited about dressing as gorillas and trying to imitate their behaviours by either eating a banana, roaring or charging!

Each time, I was wondering what would happen if they saw real gorillas. Or, if those gorilla statues at Minster court were real gorillas seeing them!?!  Surely they would be delighted to see a human struggling to become a gorilla!!

Once the kick off was given, I started running following others and holding a collection bucket, which I was using to collect money from viewers enjoying the Sunday sun! I can remember being stopped by a couple, probably, they wanted to check if I was a real gorilla and to prove this I charged!!! They ran away but immediately came back and put some coins into the bucket before wishing me success!

Although I had studied the map of the run, I couldn’t locate myself between the high buildings. It was difficulty to see the sky and the sun which is how we traditionally find our way in Rwanda. I was simply following others!!

I can not remember how many bridges I crossed, I could not even remember how long it took me, what I remember is that I did it, it was amazing and raised I collected £75 in my bucket during the run!!

Can you spot me in the photo!

The house that built gorilla conservation

A few weeks ago, I watched the Gorilla Organization’s director, Jillian Miller, well up with emotion as she sat on the steps of the small house in the Virungas that welcomed the American researcher, Dian Fossy, all those years ago. When Dian first came to Virungas to study the gorillas in 1974, she was based at this house in Rumangabo, which to this day is still the main headquarters for the Virungas National Park.
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But this house did not begin with Dian Fossey, in fact its history with gorilla conservation began during the early 1960’s when it was built by another famous gorilla conservationist George Schaller. Dian, who followed Schaller’s groundbreaking research, was thrilled to be staying in his hut when she first arrived in DRC.

Jillian met with the family who now live in the house and work as rangers in the Virungas to protect the same gorillas that Dian Fossey worked hard to protect in the 70’s. Jillian shared her memories of Dian and George with us all and for us it was so inspiring to hear first hand of the pioneers of gorilla conservation.

Schaller and Fossey were the first to demonstrate the deep compassion and social intelligence evident among gorillas, and how very closely their behavior parallels that of humans. The Gorilla Organization continues the conservation work they so bravely started from the little house in the Virungas.  Times have changed and approaches to conservation have changed with it, but we will always be inspired by the first gorilla conservationists.

Kabirizi silverback is a dad again

Having met the Kabirizi family twice I feel as if they are my family so you can imagine my joy when I saw that Kabirizi has another child. that means that Miza, the orphaned baby gorilla we wrote about in “Looking for Miza” about has another sibling!

Look at this beauty!

Kabirizi baby gorilla

Thank you Innocent for bringing us this wonderful news. I know that things are still very difficult in eastern DR Congo but the gorillas look quite peaceful thanks to our former CEO Emmanuel de Merode who is now the Virunga National Park warden and his team of dedicated rangers on the ground.