A Visual Journey of Our Collaborative Work in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Award-winning independent photojournalist Allison Shelley, featured in publications such as National Geographic and The New York Times, visited our great apes program partner while on assignment in DRC. Her resulting body of work captures the essence of our collaboration with the Congolese organization Primate Expertise (PEx), led by founder and executive director, Dr. Augustin Basabose, who we are proud to call our longtime colleague.

Shelley’s powerful images showcase our partnership with PEx, which is geared to improving community-based conservation of great apes in ways that strengthen local livelihoods. They depict the gorillas and the threats to gorillas that drive our program work, alongside local culture and context, and committed park and community rangers.

Allison Shelley with rangers in KBNP DRC_Wild Earth Allies_2018_Blog
Allison Shelley, on assignment for Wild Earth Allies, with rangers in Kahuzi-Biega National Park in eastern DRC. 

Allison Shelley Recalls Her First Encounter With a Silverback

“We arrived at the main entrance to Kahuzi-Biega National Park on November 21 after having flown through Rwanda—staying overnight due to a canceled regional connection—and crossing the border at Bukavu on foot. Though the park entrance is only 2 hours away from the provincial capital, conflict has kept tourism low here. I was told that there were maybe 20 visitors a month.


“I went in with only two camera bodies, two lenses—nothing longer than a 200mm. No tripods or other gear to get in the way or weigh me down. We were told that we would only have an hour with the gorilla family, and I wanted to be able to maneuver without hindrance.


“We trekked for four hours, behind a set of rangers: guides who bushwacked with machetes, and trackers who followed the movement of the gorilla group, before we came across the family.  And this was my first view.”

Chimanunka Grauer's gorilla in grass by Allison Shelley_Wild Earth Allies_2018_Blog
Chimanuka, a silverback Grauer’s gorilla who leads a group of 19, in Kahuzi-Biega. 

A Journey of Discovering Great Ape Conservation

Shelley visually documented many aspects of our collaborative work with Augustin and his PEx team, including: snare removal and patrols of Kahuzi-Biega National Park, with a focus on Grauer’s gorillas and chimpanzees; recovering seeds from ape dung for propagating in community tree nurseries; and work with surrounding Batwa communities on livelihood strategies that improve their well-being while reducing human pressures on the park.

We will be sharing the stories of these images and more in coming weeks through our News page. Join us on this journey, and watch notices of new stories on Facebook and Twitter, sign up for our mailings, and revisit our website.

Dr Augustin Basabose in forest by Allison Shelley_Wild Earth Allies_2018_Blog
Dr. Augustin Basabose, founder and executive director of PEx, in dense forest in Kahuzi-Biega.

Mateo and Nbanga Grauer's gorillas by Allison Shelley_Wild Earth Allies_2018_Blog
Juvenile male Grauer’s gorilla named Meteo, left, lost his left hand in a snare in 2010, with blackback Nabanga, right, in Kahuzi-Biega.

Claudine and family with guinea pigs by Allison Shelley_Wild Earth Allies_2018_Blog
Claudine Mwa-Mudake, 28, and her children Elia, left, 3, and Eliana, right, 5, hold guinea pigs supplied as part of our integrated engagement with Batwa families in the pygmy village of Buyungule, neighboring Kahuzi-Biega.