Happy World Gorilla Day! Today we celebrate some of our closest relatives in the wild and reflect on our collaborative work for decades to ensure their survival.
What an enormously complicated year this has been for all great apes – human and non-human alike – with the pandemic affecting all corners of our shared planet. So, to mark this year’s World Gorilla Day on a happy note, we begin our countdown to a special 50th anniversary celebration of Kahuzi-Biega National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Founded on November 30, 1970, Kahuzi-Biega is where the first gorillas – Grauer’s gorillas – were habituated for visitation by tourists, almost five decades ago.
Today, Grauer’s are critically endangered with fewer than 3,800 remaining – all within the forests of eastern DRC. Together with our talented partner Dr. Augustin K. Basabose and his Congolese NGO Primate Expertise, we are applying lessons learned from decades working on mountain gorilla conservation to address threats to Grauer’s.
COVID-19 caused an abrupt suspension of tourism in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, in order to keep wildlife and people safe. This was a positive step, but also eliminated an important revenue stream for conservation activities and local livelihoods. This soon created pressures on the park and the wildlife which call it home, as communities looked to these forests to meet their needs and park staff were without the necessary support to respond.
We took rapid action with the Primate Expertise team, providing emergency support to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and food rations so that 50 park rangers could immediately and safely resume anti-poaching patrols. Outside the park, we provided food and hygienic supplies to 179 families across three Indigenous Batwa communities suffering from the pandemic. This rapid response has made a world of difference.
In spite the many hardships associated with this pandemic worldwide, moments to celebrate surround us. Join us this World Gorilla Day by supporting our collaborative conservation and emergency response efforts.
Park rangers unload supplies at the Kahuzi-Biega National Park headquarters. (Photo Credit: Primate Expertise)
Dr. Augustin K. Basabose, Founder of Primate Expertise, gives supplies to De-Dieu Byaombe, Chief Park Warden. Emergency support from Primate Expertise has enabled 50 park rangers to continue their work. (Photo Credit: Primate Expertise)
Sanitation supplies include masks, soaps, hand sanitizers, handwashing tanks, laser thermometers and sprayers. (Photo Credit: Primate Expertise)
Families in Chahoboka, an Indigenous Batwa village, retrieve emergency supplies from Primate Expertise. Each family receives a package containing beans, rice, maize flour, salt, soap, water cups, a handwashing tank, and masks. In total, 179 families across three Indigenous Batwa communities received supplies. (Photo Credit: Primate Expertise)