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An international insight to conservation
18 August 2008

Dominique Bikaba is coordinator of Pole Pole Foundation (POPOF), a local NGO aiming to involve local communities in the conservation of Kahuzi Biega National Park, in DR Congo. Kahuzi Biega National Park is one of the last remaining habitats of the endangered eastern lowland gorilla, and in August 2008 Dominique came to the UK to learn more about international conservation efforts and take part in the International Primatological Society Congress.

The International Primatological Society (IPS), which I have joined in 2006 as a member, invited me to attend a Pre-congress workshop on animals in captivity at the 22nd Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Excited by my invitation from the IPS, I wrote to the Gorilla Organization, which has developed joint conservation projects in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park (KBNP) with POPOF. The Gorilla Organization invited me to London, following the Congress, to spend a week visiting the organisation’s head office and meeting its staff.

It was privilege to travel to UK and amazed by peoples commitment to conservation initiatives in Africa.

Edinburgh was beyond my expectations. I had not realised that the town was so historic. Every two meters, I saw something new to photograph. It was either a monument or an old building. The five days we spent in the Edinburgh zoo for the workshop were helpful to understand more about the link between zoos in the west and the development of conservation projects in the field. The workshop also highlighted how zoos are empowering the environmental education machinery.

Meeting with so many people involved in different types of conservation and meeting the animals in captivity (the ambassadors for the wild animals in the field), was also a great experience.

During the IPS Congress I gave a poster presentation to the delegates about Kahuzi Biega National park and the work that I do there with the local communities. The interest in my presentation confirmed for me that people are increasingly aware of the importance of involving local communities in sustainable conservation.

During my time in London I also had the opportunity to visit Oxford University where I had the pleasure of giving a talk to the students of the Wildlife Conservation and Research Unit Program (WildCRU). The presentation aimed to tell the audience about the work of POPOF and the discussion that followed helped me to learn a lot more form the students.

The day before I left London, I had the privilege of visiting London Zoo where for the first time I saw the Okapi. The Okapi is a famous animal living naturally in my country, DR Congo but it is very rare to see one in the wild. I was also surprised by the number of people visiting the animals and impressed by the educational program at the zoo that aims to educate people about these animals and their sustainable conservation in their natural habitat.

My visit to UK was full of many new experiences (including learning how to travel underground!)  - and I thank all the people who made this happen.


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