Wilhelma Zoo – Virunga’s Dedicated Partner in Germany

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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.

Marlene presenting

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.

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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…)

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“Gorillas” exchanging bananas for donations

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Welcoming faces of Wilhelma

Graciem at info tableRanger Gracien and Wilhelma staff

Wilhelma Interactive

Understandably impressed: Virunga rangers take in Wilhelma’s beautiful interactive gorilla exhibit

Wilhelma Gorilla Exhibit

The outside of Wilhelma’s  gorilla exhibit.

Wilhelma Grounds

The beautiful grounds of Wilhelma

From all of us at Virunga National Park, THANK YOU Wilhelma staff and patrons!



  1. Virginie LABAT June 21, 2014 Reply

    It is very impressive, the Earth needs more people like this Lady.
    Rangers deserve all we can do for them and their family.
    Virginia from Pau, France

  2. Brenda Robinson June 21, 2014 Reply

    Thank you for all the wonderful work you are doing for the park!

  3. LuAnne June 24, 2014 Reply

    Stefanie Reska, you are one seriously amazing woman. I feel so privileged to have met you. You inspire me. Thank you for everything you’ve done for the rangers, for the wildlife, for Virunga.

  4. Instinct Safaris August 6, 2014 Reply

    I am stationed in Zurich for Instinct Safaris (which operates in Uganda and Rwanda, but we are eager to enter to DR Congo with our eco-tours once the situation allows) mostly and I have seen more than just this one event of the Wilhelma Zoo towards supporting the Virunga National Park! Have been to the zoo in Stuttgart and can only express how happy we are that this partnership exists!

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