Last Week in Virunga: Warden’s Log, 10-16 October


Javier Kakule holds onto baby Shamavu who loves his milk and drank the entire bottle without pausing once.

Gorillas:

  • We received a great deal of press this past week on the rescue of the baby gorilla and the problem that poaching seems to be on the rise. MSNBC, National Geographic, The Times London, and many more wrote stories and linked to or site. We are always grateful for the publicity and it’s our hope that more and more people around the world will become aware of the hard work and commitment of the rangers and staff here.
  • The baby gorilla, Shamavu is doing well, and has already bonded with his caretakers, Foster and Javier Kakule, who seem to truly care for him as well. I’ve watched this baby wrap his arms around Foster’s neck and kiss him, just like a human child. It brings home the fact of how special these animals are, how like humans, and why we connect with them. If you would like to help support the care of this baby, you can do so to the right of this blog post using the barometer donate button. We do need your support.

Dirk-Jan Vermeij (far right), envoy for the Dutch Embassy Kinshasa, watches the Tongo chimps in the trees.

Tourism

  • Dirk-Jan Vermeij, envoy for the Dutch Embassy in Kinshasa, visited Rumangabo to see some of the work they support which includes Tongo and the chimpanzee habituation project run by Frankfurt Zoological Society. Several of our staff joined Dirk-Jan Vermeij to see the chimps for the first time. I went on a chimp trek recently in Tongo and thoroughly enjoyed it. The village of Tongo itself sits on a hillside overlooking a valley of lava flow, the hills where the chimps live, and the Virunga Massif in the background (when it’s clear). It’s beautiful.

View of the Tongo hills sitting on top of an old lava flow where the chimpanzees live. The L-shaped building in the foreground is a school built by the park for the community.

Security

  • As we reported last week in a blog post, elephant and hippo continue to come out of the forest and river to raid the cultivated fields in the northern sector near Masambo and the Ugandan border. Significant cassava, maize and banana crops were destroyed, and the owners have filed complaints with the park. Park rangers are working hard to stop the raids.
  • The operation in Muramba to clear the area of Mai Mai militia was very successful.  There were armed contacts with militias, but several camps were destroyed, and quite a lot of ammunition was seized from their camps.

Rangers

  • The officer training is completed in Mutsora. In all, 26 of our officers were trained to command a platoon, that’s up to about 40 men.  This completes a very important phase in our training.  There is one training session left this year which is for high level officers (a company command, that’s up to about 120 men).

Jean Bosco works with the community to set up dialogue committees.

Community

  • Our community liaison, Jean Bosco, held an important meeting in Kiwanja on Friday (a community north of Rumangabo park headquarters) to create some dialogue committees in villages surrounding the park. The goal is to give people a place to discuss problems related to the park, and give the park an opportunity to address issues as well as identify the community’s greatest need. We are committed to establishing better relationships with the local community and believe this is a good place to start.

Misc.

  • I was invited to give a presentation at a TEDx gathering in Geneva organised by WWF.  I’m incredibly glad I went, as it was an opportunity to meet some very good people, and an amazingly talented bunch of speakers, all deeply committed to the environment. There was a venture capitalist / physicist committed to resolving the energy crisis, a key member of the London Symphony Orchestra using music to inspire people about the value of nature, and a Sherpa who had twice climbed Everest and a good dozen other Himalayan peaks and was campaigning on global warming.  Puts things in proportion, in our little world.

And…one last photo of baby gorilla Shamavu…

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