Protect Forest Habitats

When we protect gorillas, we protect the habitats of thousands of other rainforest species.

Reversing the loss of Earth’s tropical rainforests is the fastest, most affordable, and most effective way to address the climate crisis and protect the world’s biodiversity.

GRACE Aspirations for Conserving Forests

We believe the Congo Basin forests are vital to our planetary health

We believe in the need to preserve our extraordinary biodiversity

To protect Grauer’s gorillas we must protect their forest homes

We seek an economic conservation model that allows communities, biodiversity, and forests to flourish simultaneously

The Congo rainforest is known for its high levels of biodiversity, including more than 600 tree species and 10,000 animal species. Some of its most famous residents include forest elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, okapi, leopards, hippos, and lions.

GRACE is honored to work in one of the planet’s top biodiversity hot spots in primary tropical forest. We lead the protection of over 500,000 acres of spectacular primary forest habitat. This area provides important habitat for critically endangered Grauer’s gorilla, Okapi and forest elephant. It is not possible to save gorillas without protecting their forest habitats

Thanks to the incredible remoteness of our operational area, these forests still show a high degree of intactness. The remoteness of these forests also make for adventurous operations. Travel by foot and river crossings are all in a day’s work.”

DID YOU KNOW? Trees in the Congo Basin tend to be larger and further apart than trees in the Amazon, even though both are tropical forests. This is because Africa has large mammals (eg, forest elephant, gorillas, large herbivores) which opens pathways in the forests. This limits undergrowth competition and allow trees to grow taller.

Focus Projects

Community-led conservation is the basis for all of our projects. Specially hired and trained community members protect, explore, study, and perform biomonitoring of these community-led nature reserves.

Forest guardians are hired from the local communities and trained to do biomonitoring.

Tayna Nature Reserve

(Réserve Naturelle de Tayna)

This 282,000-acre nature reserve is Democratic Republic of Congo’s first community-led reserve. The reserve is managed by a body of respected community members who were elected by their peers.

Tayna Nature Reserve is in North Kivu Province in dense tropical forest. It is prime habitat for critically endangered Grauer’s gorillas as well as many other rare and precious species like forest elephants, pangolins, and chimpanzees. The reserve is part of the east Afromontane biodiversity hotspot.

Tayna is one of four priority areas for conservation outside of national parks within the entire Albertine Rift region.

In 2020, GRACE undertook the first biodiversity survey of the entire Tayna Nature Reserve. We found a healthy wild population of between 150 – 300 Grauer’s gorillas. We support ongoing forest guardian programs to help protect and monitor Tayna Nature Reserve.

Location of Tayna Nature Reserve in eastern DR Congo.
This important biodiversity corridor will link two key ape strongholds, Tayna Nature Reserve and Maiko National Park. Note the yellow areas showing deforestation of these forests.

Usala Conservation Corridor

(Réserve des Gorilles d’Usala Conservation Corridor)

GRACE is working to secure this vast 284,801-acre conservation corridor. It connects two key protected areas, Tayna Nature Reserve and Maiko National Park. This forested area is an important Grauer’s gorilla stronghold.

The corridor is home to other endemic and rare species like forest elephants and chimpanzees. Other project benefits include maintaining wildlife connectivity, carbon storage, and water quality regulation.

The corridor project grants land ownership to the local forest communities. GRACE is helping the Usala community establish three Local Community Forest Concessions (CFCLs). CFCLs are a legal mechanism for securing traditional land rights for local communities. The community receives ownership in return for sustainable land management.

By The Numbers

500,000+ acres of primary rainforest managed
Forest habitat to at least 7 endangered and critically endangered mammal species
96 two-kilometer transects surveyed in Tayna Nature Reserve
80 local community members hired and trained for gorilla protection and monitoring
40+ animal species observed, including endemic and threatened species
63+ plant species recorded from wild gorilla diet
3 Congolese organizations partnering to protect this key habitat

Did you know?

  • The Congo Basin is the second-largest rainforest in the world.
  • The Congo Basin holds 7% of Earth’s carbon resources, making it one of the largest forest carbon stocks in the world.
  • The Congo’s forests host more primates than any other country, including three species of great apes: gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos. It is also home to forest elephants, the okapi, and over 1,000 bird species.
  • Tropical forests represent 23% of the solution to keep warming below 1.5°C. There is no meeting this goal without preserving our tropical forests.

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Born: 2006 (estimated) Rescued: 2006

Tumaini means “hope” in Kiswahili. Rescued from poachers near Goma in 2006, Tumaini was very young, between three and six months old, and in poor health. Tumaini is a peaceful and very social member of the group at GRACE, but can become protective of her food, especially her favorite – wild bananas. Tumaini seems to want to be the most dominant gorilla in her age group and likes to display often to show off. She is shorter than other gorillas her size, which may be a result of stunted growth from malnutrition experienced at an early age.


Born: 2010 (estimated) Rescued: 2011

Shamavu was carried around for weeks in a small backpack while his captors searched for a potential buyer. Once confiscated, he received medical attention in Virunga National Park and then was transferred by plane to GRACE. Shamavu is the youngest male in the group of 14 gorillas at GRACE. He’s full of restless energy with an inexhaustible eagerness to play. He and male Lubutu are best pals and they’re often seen wrestling and chasing each other up trees, around stumps and through their night quarters. Shamavu boasts thick dark hair and striking eyes. Watch Shamavu’s trip to GRACE.


Born: 2002 (estimated) Rescued: 2005

Confiscated near Goma in eastern DR Congo, Serufuli was named after a North Kivu, DR Congo governor. She was between two and three years of age when she was rescued. Serufuli is a beautiful gorilla that is described by staff as kind. She is one of the quieter gorillas and rarely causes a stir, but she has close friendships with both of the highest-ranking females at GRACE — Pinga and Mapendo — and can influence who is seen as the dominant female by the group.


Born: 2003 (estimated) Rescued: 2005

From the moment Pinga was rescued from poachers, her rescuers knew that she was a gorilla destined to be in charge! Pinga has always been very “wild-like” in that she is not human-oriented — a promising quality that will make her a strong candidate for reintroduction. Pinga is the oldest female at GRACE and led the group for several years before male Kighoma came of age. She is still one of the highest-ranking females in the group, but now jockeys for the alpha female role with Mapendo. Pinga has been the loving surrogate mother to almost every orphan gorilla at GRACE.


Born: 2009 (estimated) Rescued: 2010

When Ndjingala was barely one year old, she was rescued from captors who were trying to sell her illegally. She was in bad shape when she was found. Her captors had tied her using a rope around her waist, which had worn deep cuts into her hips – plus she was sick. Fortunately, Ndjingala’s health slowly improved. Ndjingala loves to play and climb trees, and has a bit of a goofy side. She has started to be interested in mothering younger gorillas and often carries them around on her back.



Born: 2010 (estimated) Rescued: 2011

Muyisa was rescued in 2011 on the border of Rwanda and DR Congo. She was taken into Rwanda, and then due to insecurity could not return to her home in DR Congo for three years. During this time, she lived alone with only a human caregiver and she unfortunately suffered from stress and pulled out much of the hair on her head as a result. Remarkably, when Muyisa met the group at GRACE, the gorillas physically embraced her and she integrated seamlessly into the group. Today, she is a confident young female who loves playing with gorillas her age.


Born: 2004 (estimated) Rescued: 2007

Mapendo, whose name means “great love” in Kiswahili, was about three years old when she was confiscated from poachers in December of 2007. She is a tough girl, and very smart. She occasionally uses tools, including branches which she uses to rake in food out of her reach when her caregivers are not looking! Mapendo is one of the highest-ranking females in the GRACE group, jockeying for the role of alpha female with Pinga.


Born: 2015 (estimated) Rescued: 2016

Lulingu is the youngest gorilla at GRACE, and is really adorable. All of the older females love Lulingu and try to carry her whenever her surrogate mother Pinga will let them. The GRACE caregivers think Lulingu (sometimes called “Luli”) is the perfect little gorilla because she always takes her food and medicine and loves the forest. She is adventurous and loves to climb high in trees. Lulingu has always had an independent nature — on her first day in the forest, she immediately climbed a tree and made her own nest! See her full story here.


Born: 2009 (estimated) Rescued: 2011

When Lubutu was about one and a half, he was rescued by the wildlife authority from four people illegally trying to sell him. He was extremely sick at the time from eating human foods. Despite his rough start, Lubutu adapted well to life at GRACE. Lubutu is now healthy and happy. He is silly and gentle and has endeared himself to every person who has met him. Lubutu is growing up and starting to show more silverback-like behavior, but he still loves to play — especially chasing and wrestling games with his best friend Shamavu!


Born: 2006 (estimated) Rescued: 2008

Kighoma was held captive in near the Tayna Nature Reserve in eastern DR Congo by a militia group. Such groups often keep young gorillas and other wildlife as mascots. He was rescued by a man named Kighoma, the brother of a local king, so that is how he got his name.Kighoma is the oldest of the males at GRACE and is currently the alpha male. He is a gentle leader, always looking out for the safety of the other gorillas in the group.


Born: 2012 (estimated) Rescued: 2014

Kalonge was confiscated by the Congolese wildlife authority in 2014 after villagers discovered her caught in a snare. Today, she is one of the boldest members of the GRACE group. She is an energetic, rough-and-tumble gorilla who likes to play and have her own way. Kalonge can be a trouble-maker with high-ranking females like Pinga, because she wants to be in charge! Despite her leadership aspirations, little Kalonge has many friends and loves to play all day every day!


Born: 2003 (estimated) Rescued: 2004

Itebero was only about one-and-a-half years old when she was confiscated from poachers. She was named after the village in eastern DR Congo where she was rescued. Itebero is considered the smartest gorilla at GRACE by caregivers. She uses tools such as branches to help her access food out of her reach. She even has used the advanced “hammer-and-anvil” technique of cracking palm nuts to get to the oil inside, a method previously thought to be restricted to chimpanzees who are known for their tool-using abilities. Itebero’s tool use even made headlines!


Born: 2007 (estimated) Rescued: 2009

On the day she was rescued, Amani was found stuffed into a plastic bag and was very dehydrated. She had a bullet lodged in her right leg as a result of the poaching incident that killed her family. While she is still a little slow and walks with a limp, she has healed well. Many of the GRACE caregivers believe that Amani is the most beautiful gorilla at GRACE because of her pretty face and sweet personality. She loves to play with the younger gorillas and is a peacemaker after conflicts within the group.


Born: 2011 (estimated) Rescued: 2012

Isangi’s family was killed by poachers when she was around 9 months old. Isangi is tough young gorilla for surviving the ordeal that took her from her family group. She walks around almost as if she is the dominant female, like nothing can harm her. She is quite mischievous, and really loves her food. She tries to sneak tasty treats from the caregiver’s food buckets, and will even try and steal food from other gorillas.p.