eanny was born and raised in Bingi, North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The youngest of 12 children, she grew up in a mountain village near Tayna Nature Reserve where the community makes a living from agriculture and raising livestock. At the age of 26, Jeanny graduated from the Tayna Center for Conservation Biology (TCCB) with a degree in Botany. After graduation, Jeanny worked as a logistics manager and teaching assistant at TCCB.
In 2010, Jeanny joined the GRACE team as a caregiver for the young Grauer’s gorilla orphans in the newly built GRACE center. She walked the baby gorillas into the forest in the early morning and would spend the day with them, acting as their surrogate mother. The babies had seen their families killed by poachers and had been through various traumas before being rescued by authorities. It takes time for orphans to build connections with their caregivers, but these relationships are crucial to their wellbeing, as they allow the gorillas to feel safe and secure once again. Jeanny immediately understood the needs of the gorillas and filled the surrogate mother role perfectly. Jeanny was dedicated to these infants and would take shifts to stay overnight with them to ensure they were cared for around the clock.
Drawing on her botany background, Jeanny noticed, while she was in the forest with the gorillas each day, that they ate many different types of vegetation. She began recording all the species she observed the gorillas eat. These records have proven very useful, since we now know what wild plants to collect for the gorillas so they maintain as natural a diet as possible.
Today, Jeanny supervises all the gorilla caregivers at GRACE, including a team of eight people that go into the forest to collect wild foods to feed to the gorillas – 300 kg per day! They collect plants from 45 species – all of which Jeanny helped identify. Jeanny says “I like everything about my job, but I like the gorillas the best!”.