I was lucky enough to attend a Wild Frontiers event at the Royal Geographical Society last week, where Kate Humble spoke about her time trekking gorillas in the Congo with John Kahekwa and the Pole Pole Foundation (POPOF); you can see some wonderful video of her trip and the gorillas here.
John is an inspirational figure; he has worked to protect gorillas for more than three decades, including during the war in Congo that took the lives of 5 million people. Although problems remain in the Congo, John is working with local communities and the wildlife authority to help protect the critically endangered Grauer’s Gorillas.
John founded POPOF with money he had saved from selling t-shirts to the tourists he took to visit the gorillas in the 1980s, a time when Congo was a lot more peaceful and a major centre of gorilla tourism. All of that fell away with the war and has yet to return; what Congo and the gorillas need is more people to visit them.
Tourism generates revenue for the Congolese wildlife authority, which funds the trackers and the rangers who protect the gorillas. It also provides jobs to guides and in the hospitality industry, to keep people employed. And revenue shared from tourism can be donated to local communities so that they see the value of protecting gorillas and benefit from conservation.
Wild Frontiers are running several trips to see the gorillas with John, which will hopefully put the Congo back on the map as a place to visit. But it’s tough. The UK government advises against travel to the region, which puts a lot of people off. And stories in newspapers about violence in the country make it seem more dangerous than it is. So, while tourism provides many benefits for conservation, it can be difficult to keep it going.
We’ve tried to replicate that in Conservation Crisis. When you take charge of your reserve you can build tourist lodges to generate extra revenue, but you’ll need to be prepared for events that stop tourists visiting and may force some of the lodges you have built to close.
Conservation is hard work, especially in somewhere like the Congo. But if you think you’re up to the challenge, sign up to be the first to download the game, test your skills, and raise funds for John Kahekwa and other conservationists like him around the globe.