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Celebrating ten years of community conservation
28 November 2007

On 29 November 2007 the Gorilla Organization will celebrate a decade of its community conservation programme – a pioneering approach that engages local communities in the preservation of gorillas and their natural habitat. Celebrations will take place around the Virunga Volcanoes spanning Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo and involve local politicians, the Gorilla Organization’s African project partners and local communities.

The celebrations will include dance performances by indigenous people; presentations from local ministers; and live radio broadcasts throughout the region. Thousands of people from the surrounding communities are expected to take part in the events, which will be focused around the Gorilla Organization’s three regional resource centres. Each will highlight the benefits of giving local people the opportunity to drive conservation efforts and celebrate the Gorilla Organization’s achievements of the last ten years.

Sam Nsingwire, the Gorilla Organization’s Uganda programme manager based in Kisoro said, “successful gorilla conservation does not take place in isolation of the local communities. Instead it involves tackling the threats to gorilla survival by working with the local communities rather than working against them”.

In the run up to the celebrations, the Gorilla Organization held an art competition for the local communities living around the gorilla habitat. The challenge was to produce an image that portrays community involvement in conservation and in doing so encapsulates the very essence of the organisation’s approach.

Entries were submitted from hundreds of local people and twelve winning pictures were used to produce an anniversary calendar for 2008.  The winning entry is also being printed onto a celebratory fabric to be used by the local communities for clothes.

The Gorilla Organization’s community conservation programme began ten years ago after surveys established that the main threat to gorilla survival was encroachment on the forest.  The surveys revealed that if the local people were to help with the protection of the gorillas and their habitat there were some vital things they needed access to outside the national park – including water, wood and a source of income. Providing these alternatives and engaging with local people became the forefront of the Gorilla Organization’s approach.

Sam Nsingwire noted, “communities in Uganda, Rwanda and DRC share a great deal of compassion and respect for gorillas and have a spirit that has managed to keep gorillas surviving even in difficult conservation times. All of us should encourage this spirit and support the cause of the community as much as we can afford’.

During the last ten years, the Gorilla Organization has provided over 33,000 people with a supply of fresh water outside of the national park; planted over 4 million trees in the forests’ buffer zone; provided conservation education to more than 200,000 children; given more than 1,500 people small credit loans; and trained 5,000 farmers in sustainable agricultural techniques. These achievements have resulted in the forests’ buffer zone increasing and a noticeable reduction to the destruction of the gorilla habitat.

Ends

For further information, photographs or spokespeople, please contact:

Abi Girling, communications manager
The Gorilla Organization,110 Gloucester Avenue, London, NW1 8HX
Tel: 020 7916 4974
Mobile: 07801 971123
Email: abi@gorillas.org
www.gorillas.org

NOTES TO EDITORS

About the Gorilla Organization
The Gorilla Organization works internationally to save the world’s last remaining gorillas from extinction by supporting long-term economic development and conservation projects in the poor communities surrounding the gorilla habitat.

Formerly The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Europe, the Gorilla Organization was inspired by Dian Fossey herself to raise funds to protect the endangered Mountain gorillas. Today the organisation works to ensure the survival of all gorilla species in their natural habitat with projects including gorilla protection; agricultural development; the Durban Process (long-term solution to illegal mining); conservation and education; forest people and combating loss of habitat. In 2002 the Gorilla Organization won the BBC International Award for Outstanding Work in Conservation.
for further information or photographs contact:

David Hewitt, Communications Manager
The Gorilla Organization, 110 Gloucester Avenue, London, Nw1 8HX
Tel: 020 7916 4974
Mobile: 07801 971123
david@gorillas.org
www.gorillas.org