Conservation and community wellbeing go hand in hand

Wild Earth Allies joins forces with local organizations and individuals to protect the wildlife and habitats that are vital to our global biodiversity and sustainability. Dr. Augustin Basabose, primatologist and founder of the Congolese NGO Primate Expertise (PEx), is one such individual.

Dr. Basabose has a passion to protect great apes and a firm belief that sustainable conservation is compatible with local development. Together this drives conservation forward to benefit wildlife and brings resources and dignity to displaced communities.

Woman and child with guinea pig Nzigire Ntavuna, 35, holds her youngest son and one of the guinea pigs from a Primate Expertise (PEx) livelihood project with Batwa pygmies in the village of Buyungule, near Bukavu, DRC. (Photo: Allison Shelley for Wild Earth Allies)

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the fourth richest country in non-human primate species, yet there are a very limited number of professional Congolese primatologists.

Dr. Basabose, being from DRC and working on great ape conservation for over 20 years, was keenly aware of this gap. In 2015, he founded the first professional institution dedicated to primate research and conservation in DRC called Primate Expertise (PEx) to foster the next generation of Congolese conservationists and primatologists.

Park rangers in front of National Park From left to right, park ranger Naomie Divine Kashalulo,guide Lambert Chirimwami, ranger Mashapo Hamisi, Dr. Augustin Basabose, founder and executive director of PEx, ranger Kaderha Mushenyeru, and tracker Jean Paul Kamuleba stand at the entrance to Kahuzi-Biega National Park, DRC. (Photo: Allison Shelley for Wild Earth Allies)

Wild Earth Allies has collaborated with Dr. Basabose for many years on mountain gorilla conservation in central Africa. With collaborative engagement and investment over more than two decades, the mountain gorilla population has nearly doubled.

Leveraging this experience and the growing influence of PEx, they are now working together to benefit the Grauer’s gorilla. With a population estimated at 3,800 and declining at 5% per year, Grauer’s gorillas were reclassified as critically endangered in 2016. This rapid decline is being driven by poaching and habitat loss.

Group of men review camera trap images. At the Tshibati ranger outpost just outside of Kahuzi-Biega National Park, DRC, a group of rangers, trackers and researchers review camera trap images with PEx founder and executive director Dr. Augustin Basabose (far right). (Photo: Allison Shelley for Wild Earth Allies)

Together, Wild Earth Allies and PEx are addressing these threats. Dr. Basabose has found that intact seeds found in gorilla feces are a cost-effective and non-invasive strategy to restore native forested habitats.

They are now collecting such seeds and germinating them for use by local people and to stimulate reforestation efforts. Other initiatives include livestock cultivation and vegetable gardening with local communities, ecological monitoring and research, and snare removal and anti-poaching patrols.

Dr. Basabose examines dried gorilla dung Dr. Augustin Basabose, founder and executive director of Primate Expertise (PEx), examines dried gorilla dung containing seeds that PEx is studying at the Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles (CRSN) just outside of Kahuzi-Biega National Park, DRC. (Photo: Allison Shelley for Wild Earth Allies)

It is for the common good of people and wildlife that Dr. Basabose protects great apes and their habitats in eastern DRC. Looking to the future of great ape conservation, Wild Earth Allies sees much to signal success and inspire optimism.

Wild Earth Allies is driven by a mission to determine the most effective and lasting ways possible to protect threatened wildlife and habitats across the globe. In addition to great apes in central Africa, Wild Earth Allies’ current priority programs include: Asian elephants in Cambodia; marine turtles in the eastern Pacific, and threatened trees in priority landscapes. Read more stories about Grauer's gorilla conservation on the Wild Earth Allies news page.

- story by Kim Richards

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Our mission is to protect vital areas of our natural world for the benefit of wildlife, habitats, and people by inspiring collaborative action.

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