Saving Gorillas, one trip at a time.
Looking for a new weekend activity? It’s not too often you hear people say; “I’m going to Uganda to support gorilla conservation this weekend”. Wild Wonderful World, In collaboration with Sapmok, are giving guests an unique opportunity to connect with nature, support conservation and save gorillas, one weekend trip at a time!
Late last year, myself (Grant Pengilly from Wild Wonderful World) and Werner Winterboer, CEO of Sapmok, travelled to Uganda to experience for ourselves what is being done on the ground to help prevent gorillas from going extinct. Fewer than 800 mountain gorillas are left in the wild and the combination of war, poaching and a dwindling habitat in the face of an exponentially growing local population means action needs to happen now unless we chance losing gorillas forever. Working with the local communities who live side by side to these endangered apes is one of the most important focus areas for the conservation of gorillas. We teamed up with the Gorilla Organisation, who is doing just that.
Gorilla Org works with ex-poachers and community members to provide opportunity for people who previously relied on the forest and wildlife for their survival, to make an honest income to support their families. Named the “Reformed poachers project”, Gorilla org works with poachers caught in the forest to upskill them in permaculture and farming. On our first day in Uganda, we visited a number of community farms and met a group of their reformed poachers, who proudly showed us their farms and produce, having taken an oath to stop poaching and commit to this project. Once progress is made and they have shown that their efforts are paying off with the gardens, money is raised for goats, and lessons are given on how to keep goats and use their waste as fertilizers for the soil in which they grow their plants. We also saw their bee projects, and the local ladies explained how she learnt to farm queen bees in order to propagate bee colonies for the harvesting of honey while at the same time increasing bee numbers in the area. In a local school, we joined a conservation class and were led afterwards by the young students to see their tree-planting efforts in a bid to reforest the area.
It was heart-warming to see the men, generations of young and old, once poachers now working together to manage community plantations of vegetables. To see ladies so proud of their beehives and growing honey businesses and to witness the pressure being applied from the younger generation still for their communities partake in more rigorous conservation efforts. The effect that this has on the conservation of gorillas speaks for itself – the number of snares and poachers found in the nearby reserve has been eradicated almost completely.
While trekking through the Bwindi Impenetrable forest the next day looking for wild gorillas, we reflected on these projects and the efforts that have gone into the protection of both gorillas and their rapidly dwindling habitats. As we stood in the forest that was humming with life, we found ourselves surrounded by a family of gorillas; an enormous Silver back with his females, whose youngsters were full of energy; playing, teasing and scrambling around all over. To see both parties in this conservation effort thriving and safe; the gorillas of whom are living in a safer environment and a community who are uplifted, upskilled and proudly supporting their young families too, was enormously meaningful. We found huge value in understanding our place in this world of conservation and the experience completed the picture of what true conservation actually means – people and wildlife living side by side, not enemies, or one against the other. But where both have value to each other. The wildlife and tourism have value to the communities in creating jobs and running projects like this one. And the wildlife values the people as their protectors.
Contributing to the conservation of gorillas
In collaboration with Sapmok, Wild Wonderful World is running four unique weekend-long Gorilla expeditions, which aim to highlight and contribute to Gorilla conservation. Through talking to ex-poachers and visiting their farms, villages and schools, to trekking through Uganda’s phenomenal Bwindi Impenetrable National parks, this is a journey with purpose that will deepen your understanding of conservation, contribute to the future of gorilla’s survival by donating to support community projects and come face to face with Africa’s most incredible Ape, the Mountain Gorilla. Join us to learn what is being done to save Gorillas and to contribute to their future.
Written By: Grant Pengilly
Photo Cred: Grant Pengilly