• Strong Roots

    DRC: Conserving community forests for Grauer's gorilla and other threatened species

In Brief

Location:

South-Kivu Province, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Goal:

Advance the conservation of Grauer's gorilla and other threatened species in the eastern Congo Basin

Conservation Value:

Grauer’s gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri), endemic to the Albertine Rift escarpment in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, has suffered a rapid population decline (70%) as a result of poaching and habitat fragmentation in the last 20 years.  Mining has broken up once continuous forested habitat, causing the remaining populations of Grauer’s gorilla in the region to become isolated.  This project is a first big step in a longer term initiative to create an ecological corridor stretching across approximately 3,000 km² of forested land, connecting Parc National de Kahuzi-Biega to the Réserve Naturelle d’Itombwe and playing a critical role in preventing the extirpation of isolated populations of great apes and other taxa in this landscape.  The rich biodiversity of the area includes the Itombwe massif clawed frog (CR), Prigogine's nightjar (EN), Prigogine's greenbul (EN), chimpanzee (EN), Congo bay-owl (EN), Itombwe golden frog (EN), yellow-crested helmet-shrike (VU) and African forest elephants (VU).

Threats:

Primates in the DRC are primarily threatened by the mining of precious minerals at artisanal and industrial scale, which contributes to habitat destruction and fragmentation, poaching and pollution of soil and ground water. Mining is the main driver of armed conflict in the region and stimulates human migration, wildlife trafficking, illegal logging for charcoal, colonization of forested areas, bushmeat hunting, and the construction of temporary roads in the forests. The extreme poverty in the region and the communities’ reliance on slash-and-burn agriculture are also drivers of great ape habitat degradation and fragmentation. All of this has led to a rapid population decline of Grauer’s gorilla from an estimated 16,900 individuals in the wild in the mid-1990s to less than 3,800 individuals today.

However, recent surveys conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Congolese Wildlife Authority show a 18% increase in Grauer’s gorilla numbers in the high-altitude sector of Tshivanga in Kahuzi-Biega National Park resulting from conservation efforts by organizations such as ICFC partner Strong Roots and the increased presence of the Congolese Wildlife Authority.  This shows what is possible.

Actions & Results:

Ongoing efforts by our field partner Strong Roots are part of an ambitious plan to empower local communities and indigenous peoples to manage and protect their traditional lands through the establishment of officially designated Forestry Concessions for Local Communities (CFCLs).  This project will achieve this designation for four CFCLs spanning 1,123 km2 as part of a ~3,000-km² biological corridor connecting Parc National de Kahuzi-Biega to the Réserve Naturelle d’Itombwe.  Crucially the project will benefit local communities beyond simply giving them control of their forests.  We will work with communities to develop sustainable livelihoods such as climate-smart agriculture and beekeeping.  And community members will be included in great ape monitoring and patrolling and reforestation in the corridor area with agroforestry tree species and native tree species. 

Project Field Partner:

Strong Roots

Size of Area Involved:

1,123 km2

Cost:

Commitment from ICFC:  $223,7550 for first year of a five-year (2020-2024) project

Photos: Strong Roots

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