September 24 is World Gorilla Day. Just in time for the celebration, we are launching a pioneering project — a 24/7 gorilla livestream from GRACE! This exciting initiative is in partnership with Explore, a philanthropic multimedia organization that sponsors the largest live nature network with almost 200 wildlife cameras around the globe.
“We are grateful to Explore for having the vision for the gorilla cam,” said Dr. Sonya Kahlenberg, GRACE Executive Director. “When they approached us with this idea, we knew this could turn into something special, and it has. How incredible that anyone, anywhere can now log onto the web and see the gorillas in our remote part of Democratic Republic of Congo!”
See the GRACE Gorilla Cam in action:
Three fixed cameras were installed outside the two forest enclosures at GRACE, which encompass 39 acres of natural forest habitat where the gorillas spend their day. This habitat is key for their rehabilitation as it allows them to forage for the majority of their food and practice other skills needed for survival in the wild. Currently one camera is active and the others will come online later. “The camera has already picked up incredible footage,” Kahlenberg said. “So, in addition to just being a neat thing to have, we anticipate that it will help with both our day-to-day animal management as well as some of our behavioral research objectives.”
But getting to today has not been easy. The project setup spanned more than two years, due in large part to GRACE’s remote location in Eastern DRC, which drastically increased the complexity of logistics needed to deliver the livestream technology to GRACE and get it operational. Two shipments from the U.S. and Europe were sent to Rwanda via Kenya then on to DRC. Then a container filled with equipment had to travel overland on trucks to GRACE’s mountainous region. This was difficult as the road conditions are notoriously poor in GRACE’s region. “We knew the contents inside the container were very fragile, so we were stressed,” said Jackson Kabuyaya Mbeke, GRACE DRC Director. “Luckily, we have drivers at GRACE who are experts at navigating the bad roads we have here.”
Planning camera installation at GRACE
Measuring for camera cable trenches
Digging trench for camera cables
Installation equipment finally arrives at GRACE
Installation of solar panels to power cameras
Final installation of fixed cameras
The political climate also factored into the drawn-out project timeline, as a presidential election in 2018 sparked unrest in the region, increasing the risk for the overland part of the journey that took several days. Jackson Mwenge, GRACE’s Goma-based Administrator, managed the transport logistics. “The challenges were various and included risk of insecurity along the road,” he said. At one point, the truck even had to join a convoy with security escort to ensure safe passage. However, when the truck finally arrived safely at GRACE, it was a cause for celebration. “After reaching the site, everyone was happy, singing and dancing,” Mbeke recalled. The complex logistics didn’t end with arrival of the equipment at GRACE, however, as the deadly outbreak of Ebola virus that began in August 2018 made it difficult to bring installers to GRACE to actually set up the cameras.
Team GRACE members Jonathan Katsongo and Sims Guy capture footage on one of Explore’s mobile cameras – which supplement the fixed cameras used for the livestream – as the GRACE gorillas return from the forest (photo: GRACE).
“It really was one challenge after another with this project,” said Kahlenberg. “But we just kept putting one foot in front of the other to make progress whenever we could.” The Explore team felt it was the most complex installation they have done to date. Jonathan Silvio, Director of Technology at Explore, said:
“Explore’s Manager of Field Operations, Joe Pifer and I often say that sending a camera to space was a less complicated task, which is true! Between the safe delivery of equipment (over land, air and water) through very challenging events, remote communication, off-grid power, satellite delivery with wireless networks, and then the actual systems integrations – I’m very proud of this collaboration and achievement.”
“I hope these cameras bridge worlds, and extend the mission of this extremely rare and meaningful organization and location,” said Explore’s Silvio. From the GRACE perspective, Kahlenberg added, “It’s our hope that people are as captivated by the gorillas as we are and that what they see inspires them to support our efforts to safeguard the gorillas’ future.”
The still images in the selection below were captured on the GRACE Gorilla Cam in its first two weeks of operation by the Explore community. The gorillas are best seen at 2 am – 3:30 am and 5:30 am – 7 am Pacific Daylight Time (due to time difference with DRC) when they pass near the camera on their way to and from the forest. But viewers can also rewind the feed to catch what they missed, if they can’t make that time window.
Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in the U.S. that operates the world’s only sanctuary for Critically Endangered Grauer’s gorillas in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The largest primate in the world, Grauer’s gorillas only live in war-torn eastern DRC. Their numbers have dropped by nearly 80% in the past 20 years due to heavy poaching. They are considered one of the 25 most endangered primates in the world with only 3,800 individuals remaining in the wild. GRACE cares for 14 orphaned gorillas rescued from poachers and works to rehabilitate them so they can one day return to the wild. At GRACE, the gorillas live in a single gorilla group that functions as a surrogate family and spend their days in protected forest habitats. GRACE also leads field research and partners with local communities on education and conservation initiatives to protect a critical population of wild gorillas living in Tayna Nature Reserve. For more about GRACE, visit: www.gracegorillas.org.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.