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Celebrating World Gorilla Day 2022 in DR Congo
Every year on September 24, GRACE celebrates World Gorilla Day with the communities in eastern DR Congo who help make gorilla rehabilitation and conservation possible. This year, turnout was higher than ever! Celebrations took place at the same time in three villages: Katoyo, Kasugho, and for the first time ever, Kagheri.
More than 11,000 people took part in the day’s gorilla conservation and education events! Across the three villages, activities included speeches, songs, processionals, educational presentations and much more.
Working Together for Gorillas and Communities
For weeks leading up to the big day, GRACE Educators were busy preparing events. GRACE Educators worked with local officials, women’s groups, churches, community associations and students from 22 schools to make the expanded celebrations possible. Working together was especially important in Kagheri, where events were carefully designed in order to celebrate World Gorilla Day in this village for the first time.
[After so much planning, we were] “proud that the team brought World Gorilla Day celebrations to three villages at the same time.” – Gracianne Basyanirya, GRACE Educator
World Gorilla Day joins together people from around the world to raise awareness for gorillas and their conservation. For GRACE staff, who dedicate their passion and purpose to caring for rescued Grauer’s gorillas every day, there is so much to celebrate!
World Gorilla Day in Katoyo and Kasugho
In the villages closest to GRACE, Katoyo and Kasugho, over 4,000 people gathered to celebrate gorillas. GRACE Educators Gracianne Basyanirya and Guy Simisi (Sims) Mumbere led events in these two villages. They organized speeches, songs, processionals, educational presentations and village cleanups. Enthusiasm from local community members was high!
“To see the local authorities, kids, and women all participating together on this day – seeing everyone dancing and singing for gorillas – really made me happy.” – Guy Simisi (Sims) Mumbere, GRACE Educator
Students from GRACE Conservation Clubs presented stories and poems to event attendees. They shared thoughts on why gorillas are important, how people can protect gorillas, and what makes nearby Tayna Nature Reserve special. Everyone in the audience cheered as these young conservation heroes spoke!
Gracianne and Sims also led each village in a community-wide cleanup. Together, they collected over 1,000 pieces of rubbish (including plastic bottles and bags) from homes and common areas. Together, participants brought the rubbish to a community disposal site. This reinforced the importance of working together to clean up the environment.
Special World Gorilla Day Events in Kagheri
Kagheri is a new village for GRACE’s conservation education and community engagement programs. In recent months, GRACE Educators have worked with local association SPEED-RDC to get to know Kagheri and better understand community members’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviors around gorilla conservation.
World Gorilla Day in Kagheri was the first major community engagement program for GRACE, and it was a huge success!
“All of the community – including the soldiers, local leaders, teachers – everyone was involved in the activities throughout Kagheri. Since that day, people have known what GRACE is, where we are located, and what we do. They have promised to welcome us for future activities in Kagheri.” – Josias Kambale Kamaliro, GRACE Communications Manager
In partnership with GRACE, SPEED-RDC led a processional for gorillas through the center of Kagheri. People of all ages were able to get involved in the celebration. An invited representative from Tayna Nature Reserve, the community-managed reserve near GRACE, spoke to the residents of Kagheri and answered their questions about gorillas and the forest. This was an important moment for building trust and understanding between the community and the different conservation groups working in the area.
A drama about gorilla conservation presented in the center of Kagheri drew in large crowds to watch. Later in the day, a film created by the GRACE Education Team taught more than 5,800 people about gorillas. For some in attendance, this was their first time seeing footage of Grauer’s gorillas. The team also designed and distributed brochures for people to learn more about gorillas and GRACE.
“Kagheri is a new area for us, but it was memorable and something we have been thinking about for a long time. Now, the community here really respects and understands our mission and message as GRACE Educators. This event gave us roots in Kagheri and will help us continue to grow into additional villages.” – Honoré Kambale Masumbuko, GRACE Education Manager
Connecting Communities for Gorillas
In all three villages, over 300 community members participated in a Pride Wall where Educators posed three questions:
What do you know about gorillas?
How do you feel about gorillas?
What have you done to protect the forest for people and gorillas?
Community members shared their responses by writing answers on the Pride Wall. This allowed people of all ages and backgrounds to express their ideas and share how they take action to protect gorillas.
Led by GRACE Educators, community members also shared their dedication to gorillas and conservation on the local radio station, Radio Tayna. Their voices carried throughout the Tayna area, reaching thousands of listeners on World Gorilla Day.
Gorilla Conservation Led by Congolese Communities
Located in a biodiversity hotspot and one of the last remaining strongholds for eastern lowland gorillas, also known as Grauer’s gorillas, GRACE is on a mission to inspire 100,000 hearts to take conservation action. Thanks to the dedication of the GRACE Education team and the support of local communities, we are proud to report that over 11,000 people (including 5,800 new contacts) took part in World Gorilla Day!
As deforestation and habitat loss continue to threaten Grauer’s gorillas, GRACE Educators are working to bring conservation education to more communities. Grauer’s gorillas are only found in eastern DR Congo, so building trust and connections with communities in the region is critical.
The GRACE Education team is already planning for next year’s World Gorilla Day events, with a goal to expand the celebrations even farther. Commitment to community-led conservation from GRACE supporters, donors, and team members in DR Congo is making a difference for people and Grauer’s gorillas in eastern DR Congo.
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 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 gracegorillas.org.
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