Skulls of animals at Tshivanga station: For the next generation

Some years ago, during the hard time of the war, almost every day we used to hear gun firing in the hills from the park headquarters. We multiplied patrols inside the park and collected skulls of slaughtered animals from 45 different sites in total.

One day, we heard gun firing and we knew there was a group of gunmen. We organized a mixed patrol group including rangers, soldiers and our brave trackers who are pygmies who knew the forest so well that they could lead us without a compass. When we approached a slaughtering site, soldiers told us to move and stay back because we rangers had no more guns after confiscated by rebels. Soldiers jumped on the opportunity and fired several bullets. Animal slaughters ran away.

At the site, there was a big fire like a campfire, flesh of animals were being smoked above fire. Skin, bones, nails and teeth were put aside. Stock of meat was confiscated by soldiers and it was like their salaries for the work they did.

Those wildlife that were killed included, elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, baboons, antelopes, hogs, cercopithecus, colobus monkeys.

Skull samples are displayed at Tshivanga station and tourists can see them.

It is horrific events but we use it as teaching materials for the new generation to know how to conserve a protected area and the surrounding communities in harmony.

Nice view and beer in Bukavu: Enjoying life after visiting gorillas

View of Mt. Kahuzi seen from the town of Bukavu

View of Mt. Kahuzi seen from the town of Bukavu

Bukavu, our home town is at 30 km of distance to the Kahuzi-Biega National Park where you can see the Grauer’s gorillas.
It’s the capital of the South Kivu Province. It is a hilly town facing Lake Kivu with a beautiful view. It was built in the 1901 by the Belgian authorities with a name “Costermansville” during the colonial period, which was later changed to its original name “Bukavu” in 1953. The population grew thanks to good climate, of which average high is about 25 Celsius degree.

Since 1996 the devastating war in the eastern DR Congo caused the loss of more than 5 millions of people and created a great fear in the hearts of many people. Poverty, unemployment and insecurity in surrounding areas caused migration of thousands of people into the town. The town is still on the long winding track of recovery. A life goes on.

Primus and Amstel beersare mostly preferred by most people

Primus and Amstel beersare mostly preferred by most people

When a climate is goog after rain, the Mount Kahuzi is clearly seen. Visitors can enjoy locally brewed beer at the Bralima brewery and also some imported beers from neighbor countries like Burundi.

Beers like Primus, Mutzig, Heineken, Turbo are brewed locally in Bukavu and they are very popular among the local people. Amstel beer is imported from Burundi. They go well with foods and dances, and then the life becomes soft for some time.

USD15 for a plate of barbacue

USD15 for a plate of barbacue

A day with tourists from Japan: Gorilla tracking and POPOF School

Although security situation is improving on a slow pace in the area around the Kahuzi-Biega National Park (KBNP), some tourists are visiting gorillas in the park and local communities, too.

A group of Japanese tourists visited the Idjwi Ireland, the Rusizi plain near Uvira, then spent some nights in Bukavu town. They experienced cultures of different local people such as the Havu in Idjwi Ireland, the Shi around Bukavu and the Fuliro near Uvira city.

We guided them to visit the gorillas in the KBNP. After for one hour driving, we reached Tshivanga headquarters. A team of guides and trackers went to the forest early in the morning to track and know where the gorilla group of Cimanuka spent the previous night.

Brieffing listened carefully before tracking gorillas

Brieffing listened carefully before tracking gorillas

After a briefing by Juvenal Munganga, chief of the visitor center, we drove another seven kilometers in the park. Lambert Mongane, chief of guides also made a short briefing and said “Welcome, we just walk for about 30 minutes and meet the group of Cimanuka. Please don’t panic when you are with gorillas because they are so friendly. Stay calm and take photos as you like. I will ask each of you to wear mask to avoid diseases transmission from gorillas to us or from us to them”.

Time for pictures on gorillas but in the middle of bamboo forest

Time for pictures on gorillas but in the middle of bamboo forest

We met the silverback Cimanuka taking a nap in the middle of his group at around 11:00 a.m. We could see some activities of other group members such as grooming. Cimanuka groomed an adult female Mwinja while she also groomed her baby. For curiosity and fun, some youngsters were playing among themselves climbing a tree, some being clapping and others beating chests. After one hour, we left the gorillas in peace and headed back to the park station.

Japanese tourists playing with Anga pupils.

Japanese tourists playing with Anga pupils.

We took them to our kindergarten and primary Anga School in Miti town. This school falls into POPOF-I’s environmental education department and we educate the pupils and the local people about the importance of protecting our environment and of reforestation. Anga School consists of kindergarten, primary and secondary school, which we registered in 1999 near the KBNP. Pupils, with age from 3 to 12, welcomed the visitors with good songs, they played very fun games and showed how they study about the nature. One of the Japanese said at the end “It was an excellent. I’m really impressed how friendly and cheerful they are”.

On the way back to Bukavu, it was time to enjoy foods and beers along the way along the Lake Kivu. These Japanese friends of Congo spent some nights in Bukavu, and then they drove to Kigali to take a flight back home. I truly hope that they got very nice impression of the nature, the people and the culture of our country.

Spirulina project to combat malnutrition

Attendees tasting spirulina for the first time

Attendees tasting spirulina for the first time

POPOF has recently teamed up with two organizations from Israel – “Africa 2030” and JustSpirulina – who are developing spirulina projects to combat malnutrition in Africa.

In September 2015, ten members of POPOF and Centre de Recherche en Science Naturelles (CRSN Lwiro) participated in a spirulina training in Kigali, Rwanda and they are now launching the spirulina production project in DRC. The first locale will be at CRSN Lwiro and the following locale will be in Miti village, next to Kahuzi Biega National Park.

John Kahekwa speaking on the training's mission in  Kigali

John Kahekwa speaking on the training’s mission in Kigali

This is an important effort to support communities who live in close proximity to protected areas inhabited by gorillas and other wildlife. Furthermore, once the project expands, spirulina, which is the most nutritious food nature has to offer, can serve as an alternative to bushmeat consumption.

Note:
Spirulina is a micro-algae, which is the richest whole-food source nature has to offer. Spirulina contains unusually high amounts of protein, between 60 and 70 percent. In addition, it includes nearly all essential fatty acids, minerals and vitamins, and is easily digested and assimilated by the human body.

Rodrigue yitro and Gloria Tehila projecting on spirulina's  growth

Rodrigue yitro and Gloria Tehila projecting on spirulina’s growth


Spirulina has proven results in battling malnutrition and malnutrition-related diseases. The effects of Spirulina are remarkably fast. Just to give you an example, children that participated in a clinical feeding study in Farende, Togo, were brought by their mothers from the surrounding countryside and given one tablespoon of Spirulina a day (mixed with water). Within a week – just a week – they began to gain weight and show signs of health improvement.
Fingers up for spirulina project in Lwiro

Fingers up for spirulina project in Lwiro