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Environmental education in the Congo Basin

Supporting education and sustainable development to protect gorillas and rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Zoos Victoria partners with the Jane Goodall Institute to support the Union of Associations for Gorilla Conservation and Community Development (UGADEC) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. UGADEC’s core goal is to create ten community reserves, which will cover approximately 1.2 million hectares and form a habitat corridor between two existing national parks (Kahuzi-Biega and Maiko National Parks). In total, 1.5 million hectares of rainforest will be protected.

The reserves will cover 90% of the current range of the Eastern Lowland Gorilla, Gorilla beringei graueri, and are critically important for the species’ survival. The area also supports a vast range of other wildlife, including Chimpanzees and Okapi.

The conservation issue

The eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a global biodiversity hotspot, home to the entire Eastern Lowland Gorilla population and 25% of the Mountain Gorilla, G. beringei beringei, population. However, high human population densities and extreme poverty due to civil war are putting pressure on local communities and the environment. Eastern Lowland Gorillas are now Endangered.

Mining, illegal forestry, charcoal production and increased demand for wildlife as bushmeat, threaten the ongoing survival of the great apes.

Key program objectives

  • Establish environmental education programs in schools and communities
  • Reduce reliance on, and raise awareness of the repercussions of the bushmeat trade in local and mining communities
  • Create and protect community wildlife reserves in the eastern DRC
  • Support family planning and health programs
  • Establish sustainable alternative livelihoods for communities, such as chicken and fish farming.

Zoos Victoria’s role

Zoos Victoria is funding an Education Coordinator role for the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) to implement an environmental education program in one hundred schools across ten eastern DRC communities.

The coordinator will engage communities and help them to understand local wildlife protection laws and environmental issues, and facilitate behaviour change to achieve measurable outcomes for wildlife.

Program outcomes

With strong leadership from UGADEC and JGI, Zoos Victoria’s financial support has facilitated:

  • Significant decreases in hunting of wildlife and the presence of bushmeat in village markets
  • More than 150 community guards trained and employed in the community reserves regularly undertake regular forests patrols 
  • Redevelopment of a community health clinic
  • HIV education and family planning training
  • Water sanitation programs to local communities.
  • Since June 2011 Zoos Victoria has signed a new partnership with JGI to concentrate specifically on education. Although still in its infancy, this new partnership has already enabled the:
  • Education program to be established in 100 schools
  • Delivery of teacher training to support environmental program
  • Production of four large roadside billboards to raise awareness and knowledge of bushmeat issues in the community.

Program partners

Jane Goodall Institute

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International

Conservation International