March 2016 : Representative of the POPOF UK visited the work in the field

In March 2016 Mr Richard Milburn, the representative of The Pole Pole Foundation UK, visited the conservation and educational activities being run by The Pole Pole Foundation in and around the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the South Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Richard Milburn and John Kahekwa on the way to visit gorillas in the park.

Richard was greeted at Rusizi, on the border between the Republic of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He spent two weeks with local communities based in Miti, a village close to the access point to the habituated Eastern Lowland Grauer’s gorillas in the highland sector of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park.

On the first day, Richard and John Kahekwa went into the Park and tracked the gorilla group of the famous silverback, Cimanuka. They walked for about 40 minutes before they found them in a dense part of the forest where the members of the group were feeding. They saw several members of the group and spent a wonderful time observing them for about an hour. The babies were in high spirits and showed off with classic behaviour such as chest beating and hand clapping whilst the silverback male, Cimanuka, groomed the hair of his alpha female, Mwinja.

The POPOF UK’s representative next to the silverback Cimanuka.

After watching them for a while, Richard said “They really are quite different to mountain gorillas. They are less hairy and the silverback is much bigger.”

In the days that followed, Richard visited the local community projects being run by The Pole Pole Foundation. He visited women who were former poachers who had been given education and training by POPOF and were now working as teachers. He visited the local kindergarten, primary and secondary schools which had been set up and are now being run by POPOF.
Richard was very impressed by the work being done, and enjoyed the songs which the women and pupils sang.

The Representative of POPOF UK visited the KBNP and the community.

Richard visited one of the fish ponds which has been set up by The Pole Pole Foundation and fished for fish there with the help of some of the local schoolchildren.

The representative of The Pole Pole Foundation UK, accompanied by the local POPOF members, attended a football match between the POPOF secondary school at Anga-Miti vs another high school team. The match was arranged to raise awareness of the protection of the Grauer’s gorillas and the benefits that brings to the local communities. The teams looked very smart in their football kit.

The Representative POPOF UK played soccer with pupils.

Richard also visited the tea plantations which are being run by a famous international tea-growing company mindful of the special conservation needs of the area.

On his final day in the area, Richard visited the chimpanzee orphanage at Lwiro, to see the work that goes on at the centre. He also went to see the spirulina cultivation project being run by POPOF near the Lwiro centre. Spirulina is a highly-nutritious algae which is grown in tanks and is being used in the treatment of malnutrition in children in the areas surrounding the Grauer’s gorillas’ habitat.

A warm welcome o the POPOF UK’s representative in DRC.

The representative of The Pole Pole Foundation UK had a lovely time in Miti, and was very pleased to see the important work being done by The Pole Pole Foundation. Richard flew back to London feeling happy and reassured that the projects that he works to support are having a beneficial impact on the communities surrounding the Kahizu-Biega National Park which will, in turn, help to conserve the Eastern Lowland Grauer’s gorillas. Richard said “The trip was most enjoyable and it was good to see this beautiful, peaceful corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo once again.”

Global Friends Club: Conservation Education and Activity for the Next Generation

[Original text in French and English translation]


S’il y’a l’interdépendance entre la faune et la flore, quel avenir ont les aires protégées de la RDC? La chasse est souvent considérée comme une activité illicite dans certains villages riveraines des zones des conservations. Dans la basse altitude du Parc national de Kahuzi-Biéga, précisément à Kalonge, la viande de brousse est la seule à fournir cette population la protéine animale et elle constitue aussi une activité lucrative. La pratique de la conservation participative est envisageable mais loin d’être réalisé.

If there is interdependence between fauna and flora, what future do the DRC’s protected areas have? Hunting is often considered illegal activity in some villages bordering the conservation areas. In the low altitude area of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, precisely in Kalonge, bushmeat is the only one to provide this population animal protein and it is also a lucrative activity. The practice of participatory conservation is conceivable but far from being achieved.

Burned forest

Quelle méchanceté à l’égard de la nature, sachant que l’homme fait partie de cette même nature, comment il peut commencer à coupé sont propre branche qui le soutien. Malgré les menaces du changement climatique, l’agriculture et la coupe du bois persistent toujours dans les zones de conservations de la RDC. Pensons nous que ceux qui brûlent ainsi la forêt ou qui coupent les arbres font leur restauration après? Nous qui avons encore cette conscience, comment devons-nous nous tenir face à ces genres des situations?

What wickedness with respect to nature, knowing that man is part of this same nature, how they can begin to cut off their own branch that supports them. Despite the threats of climate change, agriculture and logging persist in the DRC’s conservation areas. Do we think that those who burn the forest or cut the trees do their restoration afterwards? We who still have this consciousness, how do we face these kinds of situations?

Danny speaking to children.

Suite a l’explication et information de Pole Pole Fondation, la nouvelle génération des communautés riveraines du PNKB, s’intéresse à la conservation de la nature et refuse d’emboîter les pas de leurs prédécesseurs qui étaient dès lors prêtés à la destruction de la faune et la flore de cette aire protégée.

Following the explanation and information of the Pole Pole Foundation, the new generation of communities bordering the KBNP, is interested in nature conservation and refuses to follow the footsteps of their predecessors who were therefore blamed for the destruction of fauna and flora of this protected area.

Global Friends Club at Miti village

Le Global Friends Club à une visite guidée dans le village de Miti à environ 7 kilomètre du PNKB. Grâce à cette visité le Club a compris le méfait de la chasse et la consommation de la viande brousse ainsi que l’importance de l’élevage domestique. A la fin de la visite, chaque enfant et membre du Club était convaincu de la nécessité d’élever leur propre bétail domestique, bannir la destruction du PNKB à travers la chasse.

The Global Friends Club at a guided tour in the village of Miti about 7 km from the KBNP. Through this visit the Club understood the mischief of hunting and consumption of bushmeat as well as the importance of domestic breeding. At the end of the visit, each child and member of the Club was convinced of the need to raise their own domestic cattle, banishing the destruction of the KBNP through hunting.

Global Friends Club with a banner.

Nous avons raison de le faire. Jeunes filles et garçons tous derrière la conservation de la nature. Notre objectif est d’éradiquer toutes les activités illicites que la génération précédente a fait dans le Parc national de Kahuzi-Biega et instaurait intégralement la conservation participative. Nous savons tous que c’est ne pas une tache facile mais ensemble nous pouvons. Yes, we can.

We are right to do that. Young girls and boys all behind the conservation of nature. Our goal is to eradicate all illegal activities that the previous generation did in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park and fully introduce participatory conservation. We all know it’s not an easy task but together we can. Yes, we can.

Friends reunited

In the 1980’s, I worked as an expedition cook for a UK company called ‘Guerba Expeditions’.

JB Jones, Nikki Jones and Nick Cooper with their expedition truck near Miti, 1987

My husband, JB, and I used to run long-haul overland trips for Guerba.
Depending on our route, these trips were four of five months long, taking in Africa from top to bottom.
Whenever we were in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (which was known as Zaire at the time), we used to go and spend some time with John Kahekwa and the Eastern Lowland Grauer’s gorillas.
Visiting the gorillas in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park was a real highlight for us, and something which we will never forget.

John Kahekwa and Nikki Jones with Pygmy trackers, 1987

The big silverback which we used to visit was called ‘Maheshe’.
He was a magnificent animal. And he was quite famous. He even appeared on the bank notes of the time.

The beautiful Maheshe, 1987

I lost touch with John, but have often thought of him over the years, and wondered how he and the gorillas were getting on with all the conflict that there has been in the area.

Imagine my delight when I learned that he was coming to London to be presented with the Prince William Award for Conservation 2016!
Finally, an opportunity to meet up and re-connect with an old friend.
It was lovely to see him again, and to share some old memories.
The years just melted away …..

Nikki Jones, John Kahekwa and JB Jones, 2016

It is great to be in touch with John again, and I am really looking forward to being able to help with the work of his Pole Pole Foundation in the future.

Nikki Jones, New Trustee of POPOF UK

Following a meeting on Saturday, 8th April 2017, the Pole Pole Foundation UK is pleased to announce the appointment of a new Trustee; Nikki Jones.

POPOF UK members:
From left, Richard Milburn – Representative member, Julia Milburn – Treasurer,
Nikki Jones – Trustee,Tony Milburn – Chairman.

Nikki used to work as a cook on trans-African overland expeditions in the 1980’s and has very fond memories of time spent in the Democratic Republic of Congo – known at that time as Zaire.

She knows the area and the founder of the Pole Pole Foundation, John Kahekwa, personally, and brings a female perspective to the role.
“I am honoured and delighted to have been given the opportunity to support the work of the Pole Pole Foundation in such a direct way.” said Nikki.
“The Congo is such a beautiful place and the people are so friendly. The Kahuzi-Biega National Park is an ecological gem. The Grauer’s gorillas are awesome in the true sense of the word.
I am very excited to be helping John and his team, and look forward to contributing to the amazing work that they are doing.”