Category Archives: Rangers

Greetings from Mt Tshiaberimu

This is Jean Claude
2010 was a difficult year for the MtT project as we worked hard to protect the small
remaining group of gorillas living in Tshiaberimu. Six months were troubled by
rebels but thankfully all the staff here at the project stayed safe.

Our thanks to our colleagues at the Congolese Wildlife Authority, the GO executive team and to the Tshiaberimu blog friends who continue to support the project. Many thanks also to the local communities and chiefs who work with us and contribute to the success of the project.

Two woman are now in training in India to support the gorillas further, you can read more about this on the gorilla blog!

Despite the insecurity the gorillas have been healthy throughout 2010. Just before Christmas there was a battle between two silverbacks and Tsongo suffered some wounds to his face but he is fine!- here are some photos of him after the fight.

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Here is a photo of me with some of the team and Emilie who visited our community activities whilst working for the EU projects in the region – thank you so much for coming to see us!

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MUKOKYA JOINS A FAMILY IN MOUNT TSHIABIRIMU

Hello, this is Tuver.

I have just returned from a visit to Mount Tshiabirimu and have some news from the rangers about one of my favourite gorillas Mukokya – a lively young black back male.

You may remember reading on the blog about Mukokya’s sad year last year….. In February his elderly father Nzanzu, with whom he spent all his time, passed away. For a while he travelled alone, but he soon found friendship with the silverback Kanindo. This new pair spent a number of months supporting each other but in July the rangers at MT T were devastated to report the death of Kanindo and Mukokya was again alone.

But since 25 February 2010, the rangers at Mt T have been thrilled to see Mukokya has joined two other gorillas and become part of the Katsavara family. The family is led by the silverback Katsavara and is also home to adult female Mwengesyali – Mukokya’s mother!

Odilon Kataomba, the Gorilla Organization’s head of research at Mount Tshiaberimu is encouraged by the strengthening of this gorilla family – ‘it bodes well for the future’ he tells me.

With so few gorillas remaining at Mt Tshiaberimu their long term survival hangs in the balance, but the changing dynamics of the gorilla groups and the strengthening of their families gives us all hope.

Memorial marks the one-year anniversary of our murdered ranger friend Safari

 His this is Vhosi

Kakule Safari was murdered on January 8th, 2009 at Mulango wa Nyama Patrol Post(Mount Tshiabirimu) when his group was attacked by rebel militia. He was then buried on January 10th,2009 at their family graveyard in Musienene village. He left three orphaned children and a widow.

Safari had worked on the Gorilla Organization programme at Mount T for more than three years. 

Recently at Mount Tshiabirimu people commemorated the one year anniversary of Safari’s murder.

A team of Mount T workers organised a meditative visit to Safari’s grave. Then a mass was said at Burusi by a priest from Kyondo Parish, and scores of people from villages surrounding Mount T attended. The mass was sung by a choir (called ‘Sacre Coeur de Jesus’) from Kyondo parish too.

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The local Community Based Organisations and the MtT workers collected some money to pay for a party where all the park workers and local villagers could come together. 

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We also thought of Nicolas Vighanzire and prayed for his ghost’s rest. Nicolas was a WWF volunteer and was assassinated on May 20th, 2007 at Burusi Ptrol Post( MtT) from an assault by unknown armed people. I was there in that attack myself, and survived it although I was shot in the leg. But I saw Nicolas giving up the ghost. He left behind his pregnant wife who gave birth to a lonely boy six months later. They are both healthy.

Thus, we prayed both for the ghosts’ rest of Safari and Nicolas, and for the peace at MtT. We hope the best both for people and the gorillas as every cloud has a silver lining.

Emirembe oko Bandu n’oko Ngayi e’ Kyabirimu, n’oko bosi abakawatikaya e’Gorilla Organization 

( Peace to MtT people and gorillas, and to all those who have been funding the GO field projects and to the HQ GO Team).

Vhosi

Thank’s for your donation

 Hi,This is Tuver

On behalf of Mount Tshiaberimu guards ,ICCN staff in this sector of Virunga national Park and Gorilla Organization Staff,i thank’s all off you for all donations we gate via wildlifedirect.

We are happy to continue our work and protecting this gorilla habitat whith your support.

Thank’s and we still need your help and more support.

Tuver Wundi

The Gorilla Organization Communications Manager

Strategies for a more peaceful Tshiabirimu

Hi this is Jean-Claude, 

Attacks against the guards of the Virunga National Park have increasingly grown over the last few years and as a result we’ve decided to come up with a three-pronged approach, which we hope will help the situation.

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The strategies being implemented include: 

1)    Capacity building: To deal with the increasing violence we ideally need more men, and men who are better trained, who know how to deal with conflict when it does arise. Hopefully training the rangers can aid their safety, ensuring they are better equipped to deal with attacks. 

2)    Reducing conflicts: If we can stem the cause of the conflict among local people and create awareness about what the rangers are doing, we can hopefully create a sense of empathy. The initiative also hopes to educate the public and local leaders about the importance of the rangers’ role in protecting gorillas and gorilla habitat.

 3)    Administrative Authority: We hope to educate both the general public and local leaders (chiefs, mayors, local politicians) about issues surrounding the allocation of land. In the past local politicians have pledged to allocate areas of the national park to local people so they can grow food. When these promises have not materialised local people have become unsettled, which has occasionally resulted in violence towards the rangers protecting the park (as has been documented in previous posts). We hope to raise awareness among community leaders about the devastating effects such promises can have, as well as educating the general public to be wary of such exaggerated statements. 

A combination of the above, we hope, will result in a safer, more peaceful, park. 

Update after Tshiaberimu attacks

Hello this is Jean Claude. Since Safari Kakule, the head of monitoring at Mount Tshiaberimu, was murdered by militia on 8 January, we have been working hard to bring peace again to Tshiaberimu and ensure that those responsible for the attacks are caught.

On 28 January we arrested a man who was responsible for planning the tragic attack. The rangers based at Mulango wa Nyama carried out the arrest with the support of a team of rangers from the advanced force.

He was arrested at Nguli and then transferred to the public prosecution department in Beni by Director Mushenzi.

This man’s brother was responsible for planning the attacks last year, that led to the death of a WWF employee at Tshiaberimu. We sincerely hope that justice is done.

Since the recent attacks there has been a constant feeling of fear in the region. The wives of the rangers fled the camps and are staying in villages around the region.

Safari’s widow, is staying in Butembo, 53km from Tshiabirimu. Yesterday my wife arranged for the wives of the other rangers, and some women from Burusi village, to visit Safari’s widow and her three children to offer moral comfort and support. She was presented with a sack of coals, a sack of potatoes and a few kilos of peas. This is a very difficult time for this brave lady and all women in this area.

The women spent all day discussing the difficulties of working life at Tshiaberimu and expressed their support and gratitude to each other. This support network is very important during the difficult periods in DR Congo.

I will keep you updated if I have any more news.

Ranger killed by rebels at Tshiaberimu

This is Tuver. It is with great sadness, we received confirmation of the death of ranger Safari Kakule. Safari was at Mount Tshiaberimu with six other rangers during the evening of 8 January when they were attacked by rebel militia without warning. They defended their position, managing to detain a rebel officer, but the attack was extremely violent and the rangers were far outnumbered. As they retreated from their position, Safari was fatally hit by the attackers’ gunfire.

Safari was an exceptional ranger, who had worked on the Gorilla Organization project at Mount Tshiaberimu for over three years. Recently Safari had taken part in gorilla health monitoring training organised by the Gorilla Organization through Conservation through Public Health (CTPH). He was expected to play a very important role in protecting the gorillas of Tshiaberimu.

His body was carried out of the forest by his colleagues and brought to Kyondo, several hours from where the attack took place. From there he was taken back to Lubero, to a final resting place at his family home. Safari leaves a widow and three children.

Gorilla veterinarian, Gladys Kalema recalls Safari’s visit to Bwindi where he took part in gorilla health monitoring training towards the end of last year. “Safari was such a hardworking and dedicated ranger, with a great personality. May God rest him in peace”.

Fifteen rangers were dispatched during the early hours of 9 January. After a long and arduous journey to the remote area of Mount Tshiaberimu they arrived safely. The rangers will help the Mount Tshiaberimu team strengthen their position, which remains extremely fragile. ICCN Director Norbert Mushenzi, head ranger, Atamato and Gorilla Organization project manager and Tshiaberimu Conservator, Jean-Claude Kyungu are all on site, conducting the investigation and organising the emergency reinforcements.

The rebel that was arrested by the rangers during the attack has been questioned and several leads on the perpetrators of the attack have been identified.

Safari was a brave, dedicated ranger who gave his life to the gorillas. His untimely death is a reminder to us all of the ultimate sacrifices that rangers make in the name of conservation. We can never thank him enough for what he has done for the gorillas. Rest in peace Safari.

Here is a picture of Safari taken in August last year during the gorilla health monitoring training. Safari RIP

Tshiaberimu gorilla sector under attack

Hello, this is Tuver. I am a colleague of Jean Claude, working for the Gorilla Organization in Goma. At midnight last night I received a devastating phone call from Jean Claude. One of the Tshiaberimu patrol posts was violently attacked by Mai Mai militia.

The head of monitoring was shot and he is now missing, we are extremely concerned for his safety.

Early this morning 15 ICCN rangers, accompanied by ICCN director Mushenzi traveled to Tshiaberimu to support Jean Claude. This area is very remote so it will take some time for the emergency reinforcements to arrive.

Jean Claude is doing all he can to investigate this situation and keep the staff safe. I have no other information to report now but as soon as I hear from Jean Claude I will let you know.

This is terrible news for Tshiaberimu and we are extremely worried about all the staff and the Tshiaberimu gorillas.

Letter from Goma

Hello, this is Jean Claude. Please see below the heart-rending letter my colleague Henry Cirhuza from Goma has sent out to the world about the humanitarian crisis in eastern DR Congo.

Dear friend,

I am writing to you from Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where once again the horror of war threatens to destroy our country and the conservation efforts that we have established to protect some of the world’s last remaining gorillas.

I am proud to be Congolese and I am proud of my country, but it breaks my heart to see war engulfing our lives and all that we have worked hard to achieve.

The situation in Goma deteriorated suddenly on Wednesday evening. Soldiers from the Congolese national army, who had been fighting rebels on the road to Kibumba, just north of the city, arrived in Goma and began firing bullets everywhere.

The soldiers were out of control, and mass panic broke out among the population of Goma who did not know what to do. After nightfall, the city remained at the mercy of uninhibited soldiers who began to loot homes and rape women throughout the city. It was a terrifying situation. All we could do was lock ourselves in our houses and hope for the best. I felt completely helpless.

On Thursday morning, we awoke with great reluctance. We did not know the extent of the damage done over night, nor who controlled the city. But we were at least thankful that we had made it through the hours of darkness without being harmed.

I later managed to speak with a neighbour, who has connections with the military. He reported that at the last minute, when the city was about to fall into the hands of rebels, negotiations were made and Laurent Nkunda, the rebel leader, had been forced to call a cease-fire.

Despite the supposed cease-fire, we continued to hide in our homes. We were still too terrified to leave the house in case the gunfire started again, and we listened to the radio in the hope of gaining information. I contacted family, friends and colleagues to make sure that no one had suffered from the attacks. The day before we had lost contact with some of our colleagues in Rutshuru, a town in the middle of rebel held territory. We feared the worse – and felt helpless to do anything, but thankfully they were all OK; after spending a fearful night in the forest they had returned to their homes. My two cousins sadly did not fare so well. Armed robbers had visited their homes, all their personal belongings were looted and their families were petrified – they lost everything.

The situation in Goma has turned in to a major humanitarian crisis. There are hundreds of thousands of people without homes, and the lack of food and water is becoming a major problem. All the markets and shops are deserted and since many of the roads surrounding Goma are controlled by rebels there is no way for food to get to the city. It will not be long at all before people start dying of hunger. My family only have enough food for one more day and then we too will start to get desperate.

Up until now we have been reluctant to leave Goma. For all of us the memories of the Nyirangogo volcano eruption, which destroyed much of Goma in 2002, is still fresh in our minds. During this time we became refugees and suffered theft, abuse, hunger and cold, and we are scared that if we leave we will be in this situation again. But as we run out of food I have realised that we can no longer stay here.

Myself and the rest of the Gorilla Organization team are also becoming increasingly concerned about the gorillas.

As food runs out and soldiers make life in the city hell, people are fleeing to the only place they can – to the gorillas’ forest. They will be searching for food, but my fear is that they will not find enough food in the national park either – the forest cannot support hundreds of thousands of people – and instead they will unintentionally be destroying the gorilla habitat. We can only hope that the gorillas will be wise enough to move deep into the forest, or maybe cross the border in to Rwanda. Having said that, as the forest becomes populated with refugees and soldiers there will be little place for them to hide.

The gorillas are now completely unprotected. Rebels raided the Congolese wildlife authority (ICCN’s) headquarters at Rumangabo earlier in the week, and the rangers were forced to flee. Many rangers are now suffering in squalid refugee camps, but some remain missing and we fear these guardians of the gorillas may not make it. While we believe that the gorillas are not a target of the unrest, it is surely only time before they get caught up in the conflict – and without ranger protection they are in serious danger.

If we can make it safely over the border to Rwanda, our colleagues there will be able to help us find food, water and shelter and we will be able to get back to our work of saving the gorillas. The Gorilla Organization is perfectly placed to help ease the pressure on the national park and support the rangers in protecting the gorillas. But for this we need your help.

Congo is in crisis. This is an emergency situation. We need funds to evacuate the Gorilla Organization’s staff and partners from eastern DR Congo and to help them survive away from home until it is safe for them to return. And we need funds to ensure that as soon as the area is safe we have the resources in place to protect the gorillas and their habitat as well as we possibly can.
Please help us and give whatever you can today.

Thank you

Henry Cirhuza
DR Congo Programme Manager
The Gorilla Organization

Health monitoring training

Hello this is Jean Claude. A few weeks ago the trackers and rangers at Mount Tshiaberimu took part in a four day training course at the Kalibina summit at Tshiabirimu. The training was facilitated by Dr. Gladys and Stephen Rubanga of Conservation Through Public Health under the financial support of ZSL and the Gorilla Organization.

The training covered both theory and practical skills and looked at clinical signs, the collection of data on the health of gorillas, processing data, the laboratory, the autopsy and veterinary treatment. The training was planned following the death of two gorillas earlier in the year.

During the training Dr. Gladys presented the team with antibiotics very kindly donated by Judy Brey from California and equipment offered by ZSL. These drugs and equipment will be kept at Mount Tshiberimu in case of an emergency – if another gorilla gets ill the team will be able to make a decision about whether to intervene and if it is decided that they should they now have all the necessary equipment that the need.

The photos below were taken during the training.Rangers and trackers at training

Here the trackers and rangers gather round at the beginning of the training

Gladys and team with antibiotics

Here is Gladys and the CTPH team with the antibiotics and equipment

Gladys and team in scotland

The training continues in the forest