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World Environment Day 2008
13 June 2008

This year, for World Environment Day, the Gorilla Organization arranged events for the towns surrounding the Virunga National Park in DR Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. The theme for World Environment Day 2008 was ‘Kick the Habit! Towards a Low Carbon Economy’ and during the week, the Gorilla Organization worked with local communities to combine this year’s theme with gorilla conservation.

Events were planned throughout the week but the official proceedings took place on Thursday 5 June.  Tree planting was one of the main activities for the local communities and local authorities taking part in World Environment Day events throughout the region.  In DR Congo around 2560 trees were planted in the buffer zones surrounding the gorilla national park, around primary schools and in the villages of the indigenous communities. Once fully grown, these trees will provide local communities with a source of wood outside of the gorillas’ habitat, protecting the forest for the gorillas.

In Rwanda 5000 trees were planted around the Volcanoes National Park. The majority of these trees will form part of the national park’s buffer zone, but others will act as a wind-breaking screen to protect a brand new primary school and protect the school’s land from wind erosion.

Further trees were planted on land that has been recently reclaimed for a local Batwa community, who had been evicted from their ancestral land with the creation of the national park in the 70s. In a double celebration on World Environment Day this land was given back to the Batwa Community and trees were planted to provide them with a sustainable supply of wood without damaging the gorilla habitat.

Wildlife clubs took a lead role in World Environment Day celebrations in Rwanda as local school children were encouraged to debate the importance of the environment and wildlife.

Similar events were celebrated in Kisoro, Uganda, at the foothills of the Muhabura Mountain and very close to the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. For the people of Uganda, World Environment Week started on Wednesday 4th June with a talk show on local radio station, Radio Muhabura, which raised awareness of this year’s theme and discussed the events that would take place during this year’s celebrations. Over 3,500 local people joined the Gorilla Organization’s Uganda Programme Manager, the District Environment Officer, the District National Resources Officer, the Public Relations Officer and representatives from local NGO, Nature Uganda for the colourful events that took place on World Environment Day itself. 

On the day, it had been planned to plant around 3000 trees but the ground was dry and hard and it was decided that the planting would be postponed until the weather conditions had improved.
For the Gorilla Organization, World Environment Day was deemed to be a great success and both the gorillas and the local communities can look forward to a ‘lower carbon economy’ in the future.

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