Virunga is home to 300 individual mountain gorillas. How do you and your colleagues protect them?
Virunga rangers track the gorilla populations every day and have patrol posts located around the gorilla sector. We work with the community to identify beneficial projects that give the local population incentive to protect the park and gorillas. Also, revenue from tourism goes back to help support gorilla conservation.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced with the gorillas?
Human encroachment on the park is a big challenge for Virunga. High population density pushes villages very close to the park boundaries. Gorillas are typically docile animals who spend most of their day eating and sleeping in the forest; however, they occasionally leave the forest and end up in farmers’ fields. It can cause tension with the population, but we recently installed an electric fence that reduces incidents like that.
Apart from mountain gorillas, are there any other wildlife species in Virunga that need your special attention?
Virunga National Park is the most biologically diverse protected area on the African continent. Hundreds of different animal species call Virunga home and are in need of protection. Not many people realise it, but we also have vulnerable populations of two other Great Ape taxa – the eastern chimpanzee and the eastern lowland gorilla. The forest and savanna buffalo, forest and savanna elephant, hippopotamus, lion, and leopard are also important animals in need of protection in the park. Personally, I love all of Virunga’s animals except baboons!
What does the future hold for wildlife conservation in Virunga?
The future of conservation in Virunga is bright. We are on the right path to making a lasting impact in the region by working together with the communities to conserve the park. If the community is on board with our initiatives, the park is more likely to be preserved for generations to come.