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Community Reserves – a new approach to gorilla conservation

The 70,000 hectare Walikale Community Gorilla Reserve in eastern DRC was established by local villagers and their leaders (mwamis) in 2001 in an attempt to gain benefit for the Walkale community for their guardianship of the nearby gorilla popula- tion. According to the mwamis at the time, villagers living near the gorilla National Parks of Virunga and Kahuzi-Biega were perceived to have benefitted from ICCN (Congolese wildlife au- thority) and NGO projects because of their proximity to gorillas, whereas Walikale missed out by being outside of the national parks system.

The following year the newly formed Walikale Committee invited the Gorilla Organization to support their initiative to protect the area, survey the gorilla population and develop community ini- tiatives. Agreement was reached with the committee and work began there in March 2003.

Initially the project hired and trained rangers to conduct basic surveys of the eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla berengei graueri) population known to exist there. To date, evidence has been gath- ered showing there may be as many as 750 gorillas in 80 families in the immediately accessible area of the reserve. Difficulty in gaining access to the most remote areas (the reserve is 4 days walk from Pinga, the nearest town) and insecurity through con- stant rebel Mai-Mai and Interahamwe activity, coupled with lack of financial resources, mean that only the immediately accessible parts of the reserve have been surveyed, so the indications are

Cameroon. The new park forms part of an important trans- boundary protected area with Nigeria´s Cross River National Park, safeguarding an estimated 115 gorillas – a third of the Cross River Gorilla population – along with other rare species.

The most recent trans-boundary initiative involving gorilla rang- es states is the Mayombe Initiative. Angola, the Democratic Re- public of Congo, and the Republic of Congo, with support from the United Nations Environment Programme signed a tri-partite declaration in 2009, confirming their commitment to establish a

that this may yet prove to be one of the richest remaining popula- tions of eastern lowland gorillas in existence.

The project currently employs 34 rangers, who monitor the goril- las, collect GPS data to produce a base map of the area and, in association with Max Planck Institute, collect stool samples for DNA analysis at MPI in Germany. In addition, the project has, through its local partner organization PROMIDOWAL, built ba- sic schools in two villages and provided teaching materials and salaries for the teachers. The project also supports the Walikale committee in overseeing its affairs.

From the outset the Gorilla Organization sought to engage the au- thorities in DRC in gaining better official recognition for the reserve, in particular through the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve programme , which seemed infinitely more appropriate for the area than designation as a national park. Covering quite a relatively large area, Walikale includes existing villages and farms as well as arti- sanal gold, cassiterite and coltan mining. As a negotiated dialogue process, the Man and Biosphere Programme takes account of such considerations and affords environmental protection alongside protection of livelihoods through negotiated zoning. In light of the prevailing lack of security, however, the MAB application process is on hold, but when the time is right it could help bring new re- sources to this innovative community conservation initiative.

Jillian Miller, CEO Gorilla Organization, September 2009

trans-boundary protected area, including important gorilla habi- tat in Cabinda and adjacent forests in the other two countries.

These initiatives follow a global trend towards more trans- boundary protected areas. In 1990 there existed 59 trans- boundary protected areas worldwide, a number which has grown to 227 by 2007 (UNEP-WCMC, 2007). A lot of the more technical experience from the earlier trans-boundary initiatives such as the Virungas is captured in the technical plans for the implementation of the CMS gorilla agreement (see box).

Figure 19: Trans-boundary collaboration in parks in the greater Congo Basin. 79

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