Gloria Mwenge Bitomwa (DRC)

Wildlife conservation is one of the key areas where much efforts need to be invested with if we truly love this planet yet it’s the forgotten aspect of daily management of a country until it’s too late and we all have to start screaming ‘save the planet’. What does save our planet mean? For some suggest that we organize big forums and gather influencers, leaders and politics, others think that it’s not their concerns they prefer living on daily basis yet face the consequences of the climate change. With current pandemic we all have witnessed how fragile life can be, all of a sudden everything collapsed! Formulas, sciences, methods were not effective at all to try and save our planet.

I am one of the few females in the wildlife conservation industry, I’m black I should mention this, and my parents are not millionaires. My passion was nurtured by my dad, a man who loves the nature and who’s devoted to teach young generation the importance of nature preservation. Working to protect the last remaining Eastern Lowland Gorillas on earth has changed my life. Each time I’m in contact with a family of gorillas at Kahuzi Biega National I’m eager to learn more about their behavior, etc. During the so-called lockdown, poachers were freely entering the protected area and therefore sabotaged efforts of 4 generations. Technology has made it easier for some people to work remotely, wow what a nice improvement! Think about it, how do we apply this in wildlife conservation? As for me I think I know it’s not possible if communities surrounding protected areas are still putting pressure. In 2016, we conducted a survey on local value and culture towards conservation, the aim to understand and establish new methods of educating communities on the issue of wild conservation and break the cycle of illegal activities. Surprising was our emotions when we found out that some cultures even believe that their God is a wild animal (Leopard) and nobody is allowed to poach it. Another culture alongside Kahuzi Biega National Park; Rega have a spirit which closes the forest sometimes to allow wild animals to generate. These are only few findings among others, our conclusion was that the economic situation of communities surrounding protected areas is critical, in search for a living they find themselves violating their beliefs and values to feed their homes.

In this field, many have lost their lives, others have given up, only the stronger ones still believe and love their wildlife conservation job. Financial insecurity is a key issue in the management of the wildland everywhere in the world, we depend 80% on donations and grants. Trust me, asking or applying for grants or donations is one of the worst processes while managing an organization. It hurts, each time I send an email explaining why we need to the money for and nobody bothers to answer, I wish I was white and could send that email to fellow white folks in the world as this could bring a different response.

In Africa when we talk about conservation, the first idea in mind is that it’s a white folk field, or it’s a male field. It’s time to learn financial resiliency in wildlife conservation management, most protected areas apart from grants and donations rely on tourism services to generate revenue. Borders are closed, travel restrictions among others have severely affected the tourism industry. As our example, we haven’t been paid our allowances since February 2020 due to lack of funds. One question, what is needed to apply financial resiliency in conservation management? Do we need to teach resiliency courses? Or do we need to create a secured fund to secure and sustain the management of the wildlife services? Or is it a tax that has to be paid to act as a secured source of revenue?

Yes, it’s time to start planning before it’s too late, the conservation job is disappearing. Old rangers need the young and fresh generation to come and learn from their past mistakes with an aim to improve things. Wildlife is valuable both to maintaining ecosystems and economically. Forests and other ecosystems maintained by wildlife are crucial to absorbing carbon, protecting watersheds, soil fertility and more. What is really needed for the long-term survival of Africa’s wildlife is the development of policies and partnerships, which foster as well as recognize communities’ rights and needs as well as investing in sustainable projects around protected areas to create jobs and alternative sources of revenue. Covid 19 has opened our mind and helped us push our mind far, let’s unite for a common cause, put our egos in the pocket and change the wildlife management in Africa.

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