Threats to DRC wildlife to be discussed in Mgahinga International conference

unnamed-fileA three day international conservation conference to discuss problems facing the wildlife in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is scheduled on 05 till 11 November in Mgahinga National Park, Uganda.

The conference, organized by the Virunga Community Programs, is going to discuss a wide range of issues that have threatened the wildlife in the country, including bushmeat hunting and encroachment of the the country’s two national parks; Salonga National Parks and Virungaimage_20180731_130143 (1)


National Parks after it was leaked the DRC government has allowed drilling of oil to take place in the parks. Other issues to be discussed will be continuing international timber trade and illegal logging that is threatening to lead to deforestation.

Virunga Community Programs Would like to invite worldwide



government institutions,

park wardens

and conservation stakeholders

to brainstorm and seek solutions on a host of problems affecting the wildlife not only in DRC in particular but the whole Virunga massif in general.

The DRC government said in June that it had decided to open up parts of Virunga and Salonga National Parks, home to mountain gorillasbonobos and other rare species to oil drilling.

The other key themes to be tackled during the conference include wildlife crime and law, wildlife trade in the Great Lakes region, wildlife law enforcement, cultural and traditional knowledge of environment conservation skills, wildlife sustainability and wildlife-human conflict.


According to Reuters, earlier proposals to allow oil exploration in the parks met fierce resistance from environmental activists, who say drilling would place wildlife at risk and release huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, causing global warming.

Hunting of bushmeat, logging and international timber trade are also among main issues that threaten wildlife existence in the DRC and are going to be discussed during the conference.

successfulanVirunga Community Programs invites all conservation stakeholders, experts and individuals from all over the world who would wish to sponsor and/or participate in the conference to contact us via

email :


Sustainable solutions to environmental problems affecting Great Lakes Region

By Virunga programs

The Great Lakes region of Africa consists of five basins: Lake Tanganyika basin, Lake Victoria basin, Upper Nile basin, Lake Malawi basin and Lake Turkana basin. It straddles 11 countries of Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia.

870_lakekivu_lake (1)However, while the region is famous for its diverse wildlife, majority of people have only seen it through television, with mostly TV programs from Discovery Channel bringing to the sitting rooms around the world its rich wildlife and plant species.

With creation of programs like conservation tourism, individual from all over the world are flocking to the region to see amazing wildlife in its natural habitat. Consequently, wildlife is driving business and contributing to a brighter future to communities living in the region.

But several communities regard the same wildlife as a threat to their existence, since animals tend to wander beyond park boundaries and raid crops that the locals would normally eat or sell.

lake-RubavuThis has led to wildlife-human conflict that continue to threaten the life of many species, some of them now registered as highly endangered, like the elephants.

Still, there are others who hunt the wildlife in order to protect their land. Other people also poach and take part in wildlife trafficking to earn their income. Making these communities realize the significance of wildlife conservation remains among the biggest challenges in the region.

Granted, many families are poor. They rely heavily on natural resources in order to derive their livelihoods from the natural ecosystems. These activities lead to increasing pressure via overuse of natural resources, like overfishing and poaching, which gives rise to progressive degradation of the affected ecosystems and loss of habitat for several species they host.

virunga-volcanoes2Despite their importance and significance, several rivers, lakes, forests and wetlands in the Great Lakes region are severely being degraded by human activities. They are declining at a much faster rate when compared to terrestrial ecosystems. Given the big numbers of vulnerable families together with high level of threats to the Great Lakes region ecosystem, the region is taken as a conservation hotspot by several stakeholders. Increased efforts now are being directed towards understanding the important drivers of change plus ways to address threats that affect the region’s ecosystem.

According to an article written in the WATTERPEBBLE titled, “Water Pollution In Africa: Reasons, Effects, Statistics” by Elvis M. Ivesone of the biggest problems facing Africa right now is lack of access to clean water that’s safe for drinking/cooking. This comes from the fact that most of the continent’s waters are getting contaminated by various human activities- like mining, urbanization, deforestation, industrial dumping, poor sanitation, agriculture, and even politics.

IMG_0701The Virunga Community Programs identify major problems affecting the region as drilling of oil and gas in Lake Kivu and areas close to the national parks, logging, and illegal mining, particularly in the DRC, river pollution as a result of human activities, killing of animals and destroying their habitat and among others.

Some of these activities lead to devastating consequences like global warming, desertification, and disease.

Virunga Community Programs is an organization based in the eastern DRC that think for these challenges to be overcome, all tourism, conservation and community development stakeholders should work together to develop collaborative actions that seek to address all problems afflicting the ecosystem in this region.

We seek to conduct activities that promote sustainable community development, protection of the wildlife’s natural habitat, conservation of the Virunga massif, promotion of modern farming techniques, community ecotourism, education of the young people about importance of conservation, job creation, poverty alleviation, advocacy and research to achieve integrated conservation, community development and responsible tourism in the region.

LOGO VIRUNGACOMMUNITY1Virunga Community Programs also supports initiatives that allow various stakeholders to track the development and progress towards achievements of several conservation targets which have been established, and allow policy makers together with the general public receive accurate, well-researched and structured information on the status of the habitats, endangered species like the mountain gorillas in the Virunga massif and ecosystem services in the region.

How Dian Fossey led to mountain gorilla population growth


By Virunga Community Programs

Many articles have been written about Dian Fossey. Many films have been produced about this wonderful woman who loved the mountain gorillas. There are countless stories that have been told about her. Even her death still remains a mystery up to date.

But thanks to Dian Fossey, the selfless woman who lived alone with the mountain gorillas in the forests, her favorite one called Digit, killed by poachers,and  now resting besides her between Karisimbi and Bisoke, the mountain gorillas can now have a smile on their faces due to her efforts to save them.



Why do we say so?

According to the latest census, the mountain gorilla population has for the first time surpassed the 1000 mark since official records began. The survey showed that there are 604 mountain gorillas in the Virunga massif, and most of them are in Rwanda. 400 are found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. Combined, this takes the total to 1,004.

According to Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, she was born on January 16, 1932, in San Francisco, California. While working as an occupational therapist, Fossey became interested in primates during a trip to Africa in 1963. She studied the endangered gorillas of the Rwandan mountain forest for two decades before her unsolved murder occurred in 1985, at Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Fossey told her story in the book Gorillas in the Mist (1983), which was later adapted for a film starring Sigourney Weaver.

But despite her efforts, on the early morning of December 27, 1985 (only two days after Christmas), she was found brutally murdered in the bedroom of her cabin she was staying at Karisoke Camp at that time.

dian-fossey-corbis.630x360According to official statistics, between 1959 and 1960, there were 400 to 500 gorillas. Between 1971 and 1973, there were 260 and 290 gorillas. The popolation decreased between 1976 and 1978 where there were 252 and 285 gorillas. The population further decreased according to 1981 to around 242 and 266 gorillas. This was mostly due rampant poaching experienced during that period.

However, acccording 1986, there was a significant population growth of the gorillas, where between 252 and 285 individuals were recorded. The growth continued according to 1989 census where 324 gorillas were counted.

The 2003 Census for gorillas recorded 380 gorillas, representing a 17% growth  increase since 1989. This represented a 1.15 % annual growth.

The mountain gorillas continued to smile later on, since according to 2010 Census, there were 480 counted mountain gorillas.

Dian Fossey didn’t just die with a whimper. She died with a bang. After her death, great awareness about the gorillas are now known all over the world.

According to Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, today, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund operates the Karisoke Research Center and is a leader in saving critically endangered gorillas in Africa, with 160 field staff engaged in daily gorilla protection, scientific study, educational initiatives, and support to improve lives of local human communities.

10ee75b4244e0485d9641d4830cbe518“If it were not for Dian Fossey, mountain gorillas would likely be extinct today. She was their greatest champion, and started what is now the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund to pay for anti-poaching patrols at a time when the gorillas were being decimated by poachers,” says Dr. Tara Stoinski, who leads the Fossey Fund today as president and CEO/chief scientific officer.

On 7th September 2018, Rwanda is going to celebrate a unique gorilla baby naming ceremony called Kwita Izina. This is a special event in the country’s calendar where 23 baby gorillas are going to be given names this year.

This couldn’t have happened without the efforts of Dian Fossey who raised worldwide awareness about the primates. Therefore, this day should also pay tribute to her efforts to save these once endangered species. It’s also a celebration of Rwanda’s continued efforts to save them through different programs like community revenue sharing programs, where 10 percent of money accrued from tourism goes back to the community through building of schools, health centers and roads so that local community surrounding the parks do not involve themselves in poaching

Virunga Community Programs also takes time to salute this great woman through which her efforts has led to creating awareness about mountain gorilla conservation. We also would thank different organisations worldwide who have made these endangered species survive, and the the governments of Rwanda DRC and Uganda through their conservation programs.

Chinese tourists visit Dian Fossey Tomb


Recently a group of Chinese tourists visited Dian Fossey graveyard in Karisoke Research Center, Musanze district. This comes in the backdrop of Rwanda and Chinese governments joint efforts to attract more Chinese tourists to Rwanda.

Even though golden monkey and mountain gorilla trekking are the focus for majority of travelers to the Volcanoes National Park, a hike to the graveyard of the American Primatologist Dian Fossey, who sacrificed her life to save the gorillas, has become among the most significant attractions in Rwanda.

IMG-20180720-WA0013 (1).jpgFurthermore, the Chinese visit to the graveyard also came hot on the heels of the director of Guangzhou tourism municipality Liu Yumei pledging to work together with Rwandan officials to promote tourism which would see more Chinese tourists visiting Rwanda. He made the remarks during the closure of a three-day Guangzhou international travel fair 2018.

In June 2018 a Chinese businessman, who has been operating in Rwanda for the past eight years, launched a travel agency, HuaLu Hills International Travel Co Ltd”, which he believes is going to bring thousands of Chinese tourists to Rwanda.

According to press reports, Duan XinJian, popularly known for building elevators and running a massage and sauna parlor, organized a tourism and cultural event last month called “Seeking the beauty of Rwanda”, in collaboration with “HuaLu Hills International Travel Co Ltd”, and “Beijing Central Television Sailing Film and Television Co. Ltd” to promote Rwanda as a tourism destination for the Chinese market.

10ee75b4244e0485d9641d4830cbe518.jpgIn April 2018, the Rwanda Development Board showcased the country’s travel and tourism attractions at this year’s China’s Outbound Travel and Tourism Market. China Outbound Travel and Tourism Market is a leading travel trade show in the Asian nation.

In as much as gorilla and golden monkey trekking remain a major focus for most travelers to Volcanoes national park, a hike to the graveyard of Dian Fossey, an American primatologist who sacrificed her life to save the mountain gorillas is worth doing.

The graveyard hike has become an exciting learning experience for travellers through providing them in-depth understanding of the beginning of gorilla tourism in the Virunga massif and how Dian Fossey sacrificed her own life to save the mountain gorillas which were on the verge of extinction.

SS2441483.jpgDian Fossey funded several projects to protect the primates, hired patrols to arrest poachers and gorilla doctors to treat injured gorillas in poaching. Her efforts drastically reduced poaching in the Volcanoes National Parks.

Dian Fossey graveyard symbolizes conservationist heroism, myatery and beauty all rolled in one. It was here that she was based during her 18 years of studying the endangered mountain gorillas in the wild. Also, it was here that she was murdered in 1985, under mysterious circumstances, in her cabin, and where she was subsequently buried – next to her favourite gorilla Digit. This place is now   serves as some type of a remote pilgrimage site. It is reached on a strenuous but extremely scenic hike.

According to source from the center, Digit was buried, alongside other dead gorillas, near Fossey’s Karisoke research station. Nobody knew back then that Fossey herself would join him there a few years later …

 dea154572e82c4a39905ba0736a00fc4 (1).jpgA visit to her graveyard and the Karisoke Research center in Musanze is an appreciation of her heroism, great love for the gorillas, and the tragedy of her death that marked the starting point of gorilla tourism in Rwanda and the Virungas.

China and Rwanda have been enjoying good bilaterial business relationship among businessmen from both countries through import and export of goods between the two countries.

Global demand for timber is threatening Congo rainforests


By Virunga Community Programs

When the term “endangered species” is mentioned, most people always think of the large animals. The Rhinos, mountain gorillas, elephants, okapis among others will easily spring in the mind. And this is rightly so, because they are the ones that receive the lion’s share of attention in many international conservation meetings and the media.

However, the trees are endangered too. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, logging and exportation of timber to the international market is raising heat among conservationists.

congo_forestA case study is the demand for Afromosia that has become an endangered species. This is a beautiful tree that’s found across central and western part of Africa. The highly prized tropical hardwood can also be found on several high-end furniture and fittings across the world.

But such high demand for the tree comes at a price. If this is maintained-and many of them are illegally felled-then the tree will become overexploited and will be threatened with extinction.

From press reports, officials in Democratic Republic of Congo are colluding with foreign logging firms to support illegal logging, harming local communities and risking the destruction of the world’s second largest forest.

8002363070_d5a6081a78_h-e1456938338476According to Jonny Hogg article “Wild West” timber trade threatens Congo forests: report,” appearing in the Reuters, “derelict ports in Congo’s riverside capital Kinshasa are piled high with logs ready to be shipped out to China and Europe as part of the lucrative timber trade.

Much of the timber has been harvested using permits signed by the ministry of environment in direct contravention of Congolese law.

The study was carried out by advocacy group Global Witness.

Congo’s forest is part of the Congo Basin that spans six countries in the central Africa region covering about 500 million hectares, over 130 million of which is in the Congo. It contains thousands of species and a quarter of the world’s remaining tropical forest.

congo_logging_yitaAnd Greenpeace, in a 2015 press release titled “DR Congo’s logging companies and international timber traders continue to profit from impunity” said logging violations, disenfranchised local communities, the cutting of endangered tree species without valid authorisation, destruction of threatened Bonobo habitat and worldwide export of suspect timber. These are just some of the effects of the chaos being wreaked at home and abroad by one of the major industrial logging companies in Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC).

According to Virunga Community Programs, the illegal and destructive logging of endangered species like Bonobo and afromorsia together with the international companies’ failure to deliver on sustainable development and social obligations continue to threaten Congolese forests and should be urgently addressed.

“The operations of these international logging companies is symptomatic of the general organized chaos which is the country’s logging industry where corruption and weak governance undermine forest protection,” says the Virunga Community Programs.

main_logging_in_congoThe DRC is at the center of among the most extensive and vital surviving tracts of tropical rainforest in the world, the Congo Basin rainforest, second only to the Amazon in size and home to threatened wildlife such as the forest elephant and the bonobo, one of humanity’s closest relatives.

Virunga Community Programs support initiatives that promote planting of trees and condemn their wanton destruction.

36732132_487915998322591_4330362078536663040_nAt Virunga Community Programs, we believe it’s now time for the DRC authorities together with timber-importing countries whose demand is promoting and fuelling this manmade disaster to note that their response before has not been enough, and they ought to take decisive actions to stop those companies that continue to despoil the rainforests of the Congo basin for their insatiable thirst for timber.




According to Jane Goodall’s online journal “GOOD FOR ALL NEWS”, after years of planning and wishing, today we finally announce the creation of the FIRST EVER World Chimpanzee Day to be celebrated on this July 14th, 2018! The Jane Goodall Institute global network of chapters and Roots & Shoots Offices celebrates World Chimpanzee Day, along with many other NGOs and individuals around the globe, in honor of the day in 1960 when our founder, Dr. Jane Goodall, first stepped foot in what is now Gombe Stream National Park to study wild chimpanzees. The day will be a celebration of our closest living relatives and all we know and continue to learn about them. It is also a rallying cry to invite participants around the world to take action in efforts to conserve this magnificent species, and improve their well-being and care in and outside of captivity. Join the celebration and learn more at!

Why We’re Celebrating

Dr Jane Goodall opened our eyes to the wonder of this extraordinary species, our relationship to these beings and our responsibility to protect them. As Dr. Goodall called attention to the remarkable behaviors and lives of wild chimpanzees and continues to advocate on their behalf, we now carry the torch, taking that message and work to conserve this species even further!

What We’re Doing

To celebrate this momentous day, we commit to invigorating the hearts and minds of global audiences, as Jane did and does, to connect to chimpanzees, learn more about them, including threats to their existence and well-being, and to take action on their behalf. We hope to share our passion and love for chimpanzees through our work to expand knowledge of wild chimpanzees with continuing research in Gombe, build holistic conservation plans and actions for chimpanzees, their habitats, and other species, while developing sustainable livelihood options for community- centered conservation initiatives, and educating and empowering a generation of compassionate, chimp-loving citizens around the world.

Why It’s Important

Chimpanzees are highly intelligent and show remarkable problem-solving abilities, memory, adaptability and complex social interactions. Chimpanzees also have strong social bonds, fascinating hierarchies, and dynamic relationships. They are great communicators who use vocalizations, facial expressions, touch, and nuanced body language to convey a wide variety of emotions with others. Chimpanzees can make tools to problem solve, something that was first observed by Dr. Jane Goodall in 1960 when she saw a chimpanzee, she named David Greybeard, in Gombe National Park creating a stick out of a twig to “fish” for termites out of a dirt mound. Chimpanzees can also learn to create tools from objects in their environment and develop behaviors like nut cracking by watching others, in their species as well as from other species.

Viena now undergoing quarenteen

Baby Vienna, a rescued chimpanzee at JGI’s Tchimpounga sanctuary

Chimps have unique personalities and are sentient beings, capable of logic and building emotional connections with other species – especially humans – and are vital members of their ecosystems, as essential “seed dispersers”, helping to ensure the life of many plant and other animal species. Chimpanzees also teach us more about humankind’s primate lineage and great ape evolutionary behavioral inheritance because we share a most recent common ancestor. What we learn from chimpanzee behaviors, especially social behaviors, has potential correlations to human behaviors and thus can help identify some of our most innate responses and behaviors.

Unfortunately, Chimpanzees are endangered on the IUCN’s Red List. At the turn of the 20th century, there were an estimated 1-2 million chimpanzees across 25 countries in Equatorial Africa. Current estimates suggest there are now as few as 340,000 chimpanzees remaining in only 21 African countries. They suffer due to threats like habitat loss, disease, fragmented populations, and illegal wildlife trafficking. In captivity, many sadly remain in biomedical research facilities around the world, and are kept as illegal pets, in roadside attractions and unaccredited zoos. Together we must work to stop these threats, improve their well-being in captive environments, and save chimpanzees!

How to Get Involved

There are so many ways to become a part of the movement to protect chimpanzees! To start, learn more about chimpanzees by visiting our website and wiki, and share your knowledge with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter using #WorldChimpanzeeDay! You can also sign up to become a Chimpanzee Guardian to support the care of our rescued chimpanzees, survivors of the illegal pet or bushmeat trade, and/or support our other community-centered chimpanzee conservation programs here.


Virunga Community Programs welcomes the move to recognise the chimpanzees since they are among the endangered species within the Virunga massif.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in particular, the primates are killed for bushmeat and this initiative to recognise them is a right step forward to recognise their existence.

China-DRC wildlife export deal off after worldwide pressure

By Virunga Community Programs

The proposed deal between the Democratic Republic of Congo and China where a number of wildlife from DRC were to be taken to two Chinese zoos has been called off. This follows after worldwide outrage against the deal led by different organizations including Conserv Congo and Virunga Community Programs.

Confirming this, Adams Cassinga of Conserv Congo in a private email message to Virunga Community Programs said that he spoke to his contacts in the ministry concerned and confirmed the deal has been called off.

image_20180713_114822“We are just pushing for a written letter guaranteeing that it will never happen. Thank you so much for your support. Other activists were very crucial in the success of this endeavor. My sincere gratitude!” said Cassinga who has been a leading voice against the move.

The DRC government also issued a statement claiming no deal had been reached and that CITES was evaluating the situation.

hqdefaultAccording to Adams Cassinga, multiple species of highly protected and endangered wildlife would have been shipped to China from the DRC. They included six gorillas, eight chimpanzees, four manatees and ten Okapis. The species are endemic to DRC and would have ended up in Taiyuan and Anji Zhongman Zoos in China.

image_20180713_114945The outrage after the deal was leaked in a private letter between Mr. Liu Min Heng, executive director of Tianjin Junheng International Trade Corporation and the Ministry of Environment, nature conservation and Sustainable Development has now led to the cancellation of the deal and is seen as huge step towards preservation of Congolese wildlife in its natural habitat.

Virunga Community Programs welcomed the cancellation of the deal, saying no Congolese wildlife should be exported to other countries under fraudulent deals that do not benefit the animals, the country and the natural heritage.

“This would have been outrageous way of selling our heritage,” Virunga Community Programs said.

36732132_487915998322591_4330362078536663040_nVirunga Programs takes this opportunity to thank all those organizations and individuals from all over the world who stood up to oppose the deal and hope that such deals, where necessary, involves all conservation stakeholders before they are approved.