DRC Park Rangers Recieve Support

This past year has seen the DRC Parks Relief Mission reach its goal and more. In October 1999 I stated our goal as an immediate, short-term, “bottom-up” emergency relief effort to provide emergency survival and morale supplies directly to the DRC Park Rangers, which we could reach during the war.” We clearly defined our exit strategy and we have successfully reached it. We have completed our goal by securely delivering materials to Kahuzi-Biega (PNKB), Upemba, Kundelungu, and Salonga National Parks, as well as manufacturing uniforms for all DRC Parks Gardes and producing the new Garde de Parc insignia patches for 1,600 personnel across the whole of the country. Our efforts and communications have also inspired an American NGO to begin working in Maiko National Park, the first efforts on-the-ground in a decade. You will remember that 100 percent of the Grauer’s Gorilla population occurs in DRC, half of the entire population are found in the Kahuzi-Biega and Maiko National Parks. So, these efforts are critical to the survival of this magnificent gorilla type. The PNKB Garde de Parc continue to monitor the gorilla population and still have not lost any since January 2000. Conservation successes continue!

Through the Gorilla Haven response and website, the Lukuru Wildlife Research Project facilitated support either financially or with in-kind services from 40 organizations and many more individuals from the global conservation community in nine countries on five continents. Gorilla Haven was one of the first to step forward … and they have extended support throughout the life of the DRC Parks Relief Mission.

Your direct contributions have enabled us to provide materials that respond to the emotional and physical needs of the Park Rangers (including things specific to individual parks) and aide them in monitoring, patrolling, and protecting their critical wildlife and habitats. They now know that their efforts are extremely important, that the international community cares and is providing concrete support on their behalf. Today the Congolese authorities have actively renewed their commitment to conservation. Large international conservation organizations and funding sources have now begun to reach the DRC. We have been contacted by several international organizations for advice about establishing disaster relief committees or emergency accounts to fund rapid actions in the future.

Our emergency resources and motivational support included: personal items (woman’s clothe pagne’s; 1,300 lbs of mixed clothing for men, women, and children; donated Zoo keeper uniforms; 100-lb bale of socks; pairs of flip flop sandals; and blankets), household goods (sacks of rock salt; large serving spoons; table knives; cups; bowls; buckets; matches; razor blades; lock & key sets; mosquito netting for beds; spools of thread; safety pins; sachets of 10 litre bidons; powdered milk; sugar; and cartons of soap), basic medicines (Amodiaquine Malaridose Zenufa – a relatively new malaria cure treatment 3-pill protocol; Chloramphenicd Collyre pink-eye drops; Amoxycillin capsules; Multivit multivitamins tablets; Paracetamol tablets; Fortified Procaine Penicillin – Injectible Benzyl penicilliin vials; Sachets of Oral Rehydrations Salts; Quinine Sulfate; Aspirin tablets; Indomethac Indocide muscle relaxant; Mebendazole tablets worm cure medicine; Metronidazole anti-helminthic and antiamebic; Erythromycine; cotton balls; syringes; sterile precision-glide needles; winged infusion sets; alcohol preps; sterile IV sets; sodium chloride drip bags; and Liquid cough suppressant for children), anti-poaching equipment and development tools (rubber boots; Coleman Nevada 2-person tents; Lafuma rain ponchos; Bergamo backpacks; 24” and 16” machetes; shovels; hoes to clear patrol routes; canteens; GPS units; 100 2-meter-sized industrial sacks to transport cash crops to market; salaries to the park personnel; a color printer; a scanner; computer software; construction materials to repair Ranger houses and administrative structures; a hydroelectric plant generator; and bicycles), communications equipment (40 Motorola walkie-talkies with rechargeable batteries and regular backup batteries; and new VHF radiophoniques with accessories including antenna, cables, 12V battery, solar panels), wildlife conservation education materials (posters; pencils; stickers; special cahiers and depliants; magazines; brochures; and tee shirts), administrative supplies and equipment (manual typewriters with spare ribbons; bics; reams of paper; and boxes of envelopes), and school supplies (construction paper; pencils; bics; blackboards; chalk; school books and materials; museum donated scientific literature; scissors; glue; posters; water color paints; paint brushes; cahiers; toys; and soccer balls).
In addition to these ventures, five issues of ‘Le Gorille – Parc Nationale de Kahuzi-Biega’ have been printed and distributed to the communal human population in and around PNKB. We have involved the United Nations in issues of environment and wildlife conservation. Our efforts supported the first survey of PNKB (conducted in June 2000 by ICCN and Wildlife Conservation Society) by providing important research equipment. In producing the Parc de Garde uniforms, 80 percent of the funds were spent in Kinshasa demonstrating the ideal union between conservation and economic

The DRC Parks Relief Mission has achieved a tangible and meaningful conservation effort. We have witnessed park guards who have regained their identity, motivation, unity, and self-esteem. You and Gorilla Haven have made a difference! Thank you!

Pinkie Found Dead

Pinkie the Chimp

Pinkie, featured in the story about primates that survived human war, was found dead in the afternoon of May 20th. As usual, she was in her group of 34 chimps on a rainy spring day. When she didn’t show up for the afternoon feed, Tacugama staff began searching the perimeter of the several-acre enclosure.

The dominant male, Bruno, joined the staff in the search. Suddenly, from the interior, chimps started to make a noise. Bruno ran towards that direction and reappeared with the lifeless body of Pinkie. Bruno started to shake and prod the body as if he was checking for any sign of life. Bruno would not allow any chimp to come near the corpse.

Then all of a sudden to the staff’s surprise, Bruno tossed the body over the fence to the staff, who examined the body. It was cold, as if she had died a few hours earlier. She had a wound and an old blood strain above her right eye, but no other evidence to indicate she was attached by other chimps or bitten by a snake, or something else. She was found in an area with tall trees and the terrain is rocky. Perhaps during the rain she slipped from a branch and fell to her death.

It is a shame, that such a rare, beautiful life has been cut short at this tender age. Pinkie was a very special soul, and we shall miss her forever. May she rest in peace…

PINKIE & PIEH: Chimpanzees – Survivors of a human war

Pinkie & the Gorilla

In Cameroon at the PASA meeting in June 2001, Steuart and I met several wonderful people running sanctuaries helping orphaned primates in Africa.   Most of the sanctuaries specialized in chimpanzees and/or monkeys, since these are the two types of animals who seem to be rescued and somehow survive the traumas of their captures.  Gorillas tend to give up and die of depression and heartbreak.  But one photo in particular got my attention – a photo of Pinkie, a chimpanzee caught in the crossfire of the war in Sierra Leone …. So with the permission of Tacugama’s Sanctuary director, Bala Amarasekaran, here’s Pinkie’s story, to accompany his photos of Pinkie and her pal, Pieh,, sent by email 09 July 2001.

“Pinkie’s story is just about another Bushmeat Baby! Her mother was shot. The infant was about six weeks old, fragile, hardly any hair and Pink in complexion. The wife of the commissioner had already named her Pinkie and begged not to change her name.

Pinkie spent the first Eight months at my residence as she needed proper care. She has now moved to Tacugama and is part of the infant gang of Six. All the resident chimps know that she is just another chimp but with a different complexion! She is a favourite of all the chimps and they all have a soft corner for her and gets special treatment from everyone. Pinkie is 1 year and 10 months old….very docile but very playful. Still scared of heights and spends most of her time on the ground.”

in the rebel held territory(Gola Forest in Sierra Leone) bordering Liberia. The hunter was on his way to the nearest town (Kenema, a government controlled area) and was intercepted by the local Police commissioner at a check point. He was amazed by the unique appearance of the infant and decided to buy the infant for his wife as a pet. Pinkie was purchased for $200 . The police commissioner was not aware of our wild life laws and decided to bring the infant to the capital city, Freetown.

Fortunately, Tacugama runs an effective sensitization campaign and majority of the people in Freetown have knowledge on laws relating to endangered species and the existence of Tacugama. Some one who had visited the sanctuary in the past happened to see this white chimp wrapped up in a blanket, held in the arms of the wife of the commissioner. I was contacted the same night and I was able to track down the Police Commissioner, educate him with our current wild life laws and he  agreed to hand over the infant.

Tragedy in Paradise: Memories of Bwindi, the Impenetrable Forest of Uganda

By Jane Dewar
On March 6, 1999, I was interviewed and quoted in an ABC News online story about tourism in Uganda. I’m flattered and a bit surprised to be in the company of other amazingly well respected gorilla experts mentioned in the story. The tragedy in Uganda unfolding last week has hit us personally very hard. While we didn’t know any of the people massacred, we have been to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and have seen the awesome and inspiring mountain gorillas there. We stayed at the same camp where the tourists were abducted, and in more irony, I used to work for A&K, the tour company which operated the fancier camp called Buhoma. While there, we had armed guards around the camp, protecting our belongings (and us) in our tents from bandits, since the island of luxury in the middle of such poverty was a bit out of place and therefore in need of some security. The guards would walk us to and from our tents and the main dining/meeting areas. Typically, they were all smiling, friendly and eager to please.

Steuart and I wanted to visit Karisoke and the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, but 1994’s genocide there made that impossible. When we learned the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s scientific director, Dieter Steklis, was leading a small group to Bwindi in April 1995, we jumped at the opportunity, knowing full well the risks of traveling anywhere, but especially to a Third World country. We were pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of the people, who welcomedRwandisa.jpg (11098 bytes) “mzungas” (Swahili for white people) with huge smiles and frantic waves of delight. And while the actual trek to see the gorillas nearly killed me (another story – dehydration didn’t help), it remains the highlight of my life. They don’t call Bwindi the Impenetrable Forest arbitrarily! Seeing my first free-living gorilla – a juvenile hanging by one arm, dangling from a shaky tree branch in typical juvenile gorilla playfulness – was like a religious experience for me (photo left). I started to weep from sheer joy, until the Prozac kicked in and I regained my composure to concentrate on the experience and absorb the magic for the hour our visit was allowed to last. In another ironic twist of fate, I managed to take this photo (right) of the M group leader, Rwandesa, which at the time was one of the only good photographs taken of these hard-to-photograph and elusive animals!

The beauty of Uganda, its people and its wildlife are second to none. I’d been to Uganda in 1971 – just after the famous Raid on Entebbe and at the start of Daddy Amin’s reign of terror. When we visited in April 1995, it was the culmination of a life’s dream for me. Although I’d been to Africa several times before – Kenya, Uganda, Botswana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Egypt and South Africa, I’d never seen free-living gorillas. In 1971 I was staying with my dear friends who run Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, Kenya. Betty and Jock Leslie-Melville were going to see gorillas and asked if I wanted to come along. I was 17 years old and it would cost me another $200 or so. It might as well have been 200 million dollars, since I’d spent all I had just getting to Kenya, so I couldn’t/didn’t go.

Betty and Jock raved for years afterwards about the wonderful time they’d had. Years later I asked my friend (Betty’s daughter), D’Ancy, just where they went and who they went with, since in 1971 there was no gorilla tourism as it was to develop later. It turns out they went with Adrien DeSchrijver (Zaire), one of the pioneers in gorilla studies and conservation. Today I cringe when I think of this missed opportunity. I have no doubt if I had gone, I would have stayed in Africa forever, helping to defend gorillas. I might have even worked with Dian Fossey, and been killed, since my outrage for the killing of gorillas wouldn’t have had any diplomatic counterbalance that age and life experience would later bring. But I believe Fate has its own plans, and I was supposed to end up doing Gorilla Haven and helping gorillas in another manner.

At Bwindi, one day I didn’t go on the gorilla trek and stayed behind, talking to the park rangers and guides still there. They were all fascinated by this odd American woman, they named Gorilla Lady (a name that others have given me as well). I showed them photos of my then-home in Chicago and animals in my back yard such as raccoon, squirrel, possum, deer, coyote, etc.
They were fascinated to see these animals, which so many of us take for granted. I also had photos of me with various zoo gorillas, and wore my gorilla t-shirt, gorilla socks, gorilla necklace, gorilla earrings, gorilla bracelet, gorilla fanny pack, gorilla hair pin, etc, etc. Peels of laughter and shrieks of hysteria pierced the air when I told them I refused to show them my gorilla underwear! I smile now when I think about the sweetness of the Ugandan people and then feel a deep sadness to think that some of these men and boys might well have been involved in last week’s tragedy.

It is important to remember that almost one million people have lost their lives in this region, due to ethnic hostilities. If humans can’t get along, the future of all wildlife including these magnificent gorillas is in serious jeopardy.