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

 

 

 

Celebrating as poachers give up their snares for good…

poachers pic

Hi, this is Sam,

As you are no doubt aware, poaching is one of the major threats facing Uganda’s gorillas today. Though nobody goes into the forest to harm mountain gorillas on purpose, younger gorillas in particular can get caught in snares left for small mammals, often with tragic results.

Ever since we started our work here at the Kisoro Resource Centre, we’ve recognised that the main thing causing people to become poaching is poverty. Men and women living alongside the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest often have no choice but to go into the protected area for bushmeat, as well as for firewood, either for their own families or to sell at market. That’s why we set up our sustainable agriculture programme, to give people the chance to make a living without having to depend on the resources found in the forest.

It’s been so rewarding watching people improve their own lives. But nothing has matched the excitement we felt when we succeeded in getting a group of former poachers to join the programme. While these men used to make a living out of illegally entering the forests to lay down snares, now they are learning how to live off the land.

To celebrate this exciting development, we held a special ceremony in Rubuguri County Hall. Here, the poachers handed over their snares to Pontius Ezuma, the head ranger for both the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park here in Uganda. Also present was Gideon Ahebwa, the President’s representative in this region, as well as a number of rangers and community members. As you can see from these pictures, it was a happy and exciting day for everyone involved.

We’re all confident that these men can succeed in transforming their lives, which would be good news not just for them, but for the gorillas who will, of course, have fewer poachers to worry about…

farmers pic 2

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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.

 

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….

 

 

 

 

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

Being a gorilla for a day

Can you spot me in the photo?

Can you spot me in the photo?

Hello this is Emmanuel,

I am the Gorilla Organization’s Rwandan Programme Manager.

In just over a month, The Gorilla Organization will be holding their biggest fundraising event of the year: The Great Gorilla Run. It’s going to be the 10th year and the excitement is taking all over London more than ever where hundreds of people dress up as gorillas and run around the city to raise money for our projects out in Africa. The money also goes directly to save our lovely gorillas in the wild.

A few 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 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.

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 behaviour 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’t 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 I collected £75 in my bucket during the run!

It was definitely the greatest experience in my life and I’m looking forward to do it again. Hopefully next time I do it I will see you around there.

 

On 22nd of september gorilla runners will run 7km for our gorillas

On 22nd of september gorilla runners will run 7km for our gorillas