Walikale Gorilla & Forest Conservation Project

Project LocationNorth Kivu District, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Project TypeWildlife and habitat conservation, Endangered species protection
Endangered SpeciesEastern lowland gorilla
Land Area Protected720 km2
Benefiting Locally20 directly, 1780 indirectly
Local People Employed20
Schools Supported2 schools (supporting 550 pupils)
Project Websitewww.gorillas.org

Walikale Gorilla & Forest Conservation Project

The Walikale territory of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is situated between the Kahuzi-Biega and Maiko National Parks and to the west of Mount Mitumba. This area still has vast tracts of pristine virgin rainforest with high levels of biodiversity that includes good numbers of chimpanzee, elephant, leopard and potentially even okapi towards its western limits. Concerned by the decline in the local gorilla population, this vast reserve was set up by the local community and is home to one of the largest remaining populations of eastern lowland gorillas.

It is estimated that in the past twenty years the gorillas have suffered a 77% decline in numbers. Because they are only found in the most politically sensitive areas of the DRC it has not been possible to get a reliable, recent estimate of their population size, but in 2016 it was estimated to be fewer than 3,800. The causes for this decline are the hunting of the gorillas as bushmeat, often as an associated activity with coltan mining, and the destruction of their habitat. The Walikale Forest is at present remote and inaccessible and human pressure on the forest is negligible. However, the region as a whole is one of the most densely populated in Africa and as the population encroaches on the area there is a very serious threat of deforestation and water pollution from mining activities. As the forest is outside the national parks it is officially regarded as a buffer zone between them, and as such it suffers from no protection whatsoever and is extremely vulnerable.

Walikale Gorilla and Forest Conservation Project (WGFCP)

In 2002 the local chiefs and communities of the area approached the The Gorilla Organisation (TGO) to ask if they would assist them in helping to protect the biodiversity of the region.

Insitigated and managed by the local community in conjunction with TGO the Walikale Gorilla and Forest Conservation Projects aim is the long-term preservation of the Walikale Forest and its high levels of biodiversity, including the protection of a significant population of eastern lowland gorilla.

The project employs over thirty people as trackers. 

Tusk Support

Funding from Tusk has allowed the project to equip and train over thirty trackers as well as build outposts in different sectors of the forest, enabling the teams to spend up to five days in the field. The gorilla population has been estimated at 700. Records are also taken of any human activity, and thanks to the patrols and the sensitisation work, the project has seen a reduction in the level of trapping in the area since the project’s inception.

Notes from the field
We have steadily been increasing the number of rangers working to keep the forests free from hunters and poachers, as well as from gangs engaged in illegal mining. Just as importantly, since the start of the project we have amassed a decade's worth of data on gorilla behaviour, giving us a valuable insight into their eating habits and movements. This data is used to create maps with which we can help ensure the gorillas stay safe from poachers' snares and minimise any interaction with humans.

Such achievements have not been easy. The Walikale region is one of the most remote places in all of Africa. The forests are dense, making ranger patrols difficult, and ongoing instability makes the work of conservationists highly dangerous.

Crucially, through working with local communities, and though our combined efforts to sensitise people to the importance of conservation, we are also ensuring the long-term sustainability of the project.
Henry Cirhuza, The Gorilla Organization
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