Park vehicle financed by Wilhelma Zoo — and grateful rangers from Virunga’s Canine Unit
The Wilhelma Zoo in Stuttgart has been supporting Virunga since 2012. It all began when Stefanie Reska of Wilhelma Zoo contacted park officials for permission to use some of Virunga’s mountain gorilla images to promote their new ape exhibit. In the process, Stefanie learned about extraordinary number of Virunga rangers that had been killed protecting the park, some of whom were killed within weeks of her image request. Word spread through WIlhelma about what was happening in Virunga and zoo staff quickly began brainstorming ways they could help. Before long, a fundraiser at the zoo was held to support the widows and families of Virunga rangers killed in the line of duty. Wilhelma’s first effort raised over $8000 for the Fallen Rangers Fund.
Dr. Marlene Zähner presenting the Congohounds concept to Wilhelma guests
It wasn’t long before Wilhelma learned of Virunga’s Congohounds Project, too. The idea of using bloodhounds to track poachers and locate injured rangers resonated with them. Wilhelma decided to support the Congohounds by holding a lottery. Lottery tickets were sold and more than once volunteers dressed up in gorilla costumes and handed out bananas in exchange for donations. Other fundraising activities included drying giraffe dung over several months and then selling it as fertilizer to garden lovers, and recycling old mobile phones. By the end of 2013, $27,000 had been raised and the Congohounds team was finally able to by a truck for deployments.
Stefanie Reska (at right), Education Dept. Head, proudly presents Marlene and bloodhound with a 10.000 € check
Dr. Marlene Zähner, leader of the Congohounds project, and the rangers in the Canine Unit feel very fortunate to have Wilhelma’s support. On several occasions, Marlene and rangers Christian Shamavu and Gracien Sivanza have traveled to Wilhelma to give presentations and thank the zoo staff for their dedication to the park. Without exception, those attending the presentations have been in awe of the team’s commitment, especially in light of the dangers they routinely face when protecting Virunga. And, they have shown their appreciation through generosity. In the first five months of 2014, another 10,000 € was raised for the park.
Creative fundraising: Giraffe dung sold as exotic garden fertilizer (these could easily be mistaken for cookies…)
“Gorillas” exchanging bananas for donations
Welcoming faces of Wilhelma
Understandably impressed: Virunga rangers take in Wilhelma’s beautiful interactive gorilla exhibit