I am Jackson Mwenge. I serve as the Administrator for Gorilla Doctors in DR Congo. I have been with the organization since 2018. In 2021, we established a new field station at Kahuzi-Biega National Park as part of our expanded efforts to monitor the health of critically endangered Grauer’s gorillas. In my role as administrator I recently traveled to our new field station to meet with Dr. Lina and park management, and to assess the needs of our office.

Pungwe, a silverback Grauer’s gorilla eating myrianthus fruit in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, DRC. May 2022.

I am based in Goma. There are two ways to travel to Tshivanga at the eastern entrance of Kahuzi-Biega National Park. By truck it is a 5- to 6-hour drive to Bukavu and then another hour to the park entrance. Lately, the road from Goma to Bukavu has not been safe for travel so I took a ferry across Lake Kivu. The trip was about four hours. Dr. Lina met me at the dock in Bukavu and together we drove the remaining one hour to the park.

Google Map of Tshivanga at eastern entrance of Kahuzi-Biega National Park.

The next morning Dr. Lina and I met with the new park director, Mr. Deo Kujirakwinja. The Wildlife Conservation Society began managing Kahuzi-Biega in May and we had much to discuss regarding our partnership, our new office and some basic equipment needs to support both our work and the work of the park trackers. Park trackers and rangers are essential partners, keeping us safe and helping us locate the gorillas inside the park. Trackers are with the gorillas almost daily and we train them to look for signs of illness or injury. If they observe something out of the ordinary, they notify us right away so we can conduct a veterinary monitoring visit.

Jackson, Dr. Lina and Deo at Tshivanga station. July 2022.

Following our meeting I conducted a thorough assessment of our field station. We have a solar panel system to provide sustainable and consistent power – it is working well, although I did recommend repositioning the solar panels to minimize exposure to torrential rain – not an easy task in a rainforest! The interior living and office areas need some minor repairs and upgrades – especially if we keep being honored with visits from guests such as the Director General of the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), our wildlife authority in DR Congo. Mr. Olivier Mushiete, visited in May to learn more about Grauer’s gorillas and the work of Gorilla Doctors. Dr. Lina accompanied him on a gorilla trek and provided a step-by-step explanation of how we conduct a visual health check. You can read more about that visit HERE.

Interior of Tshivanga station office. July 2022.

I only had one day to accomplish many tasks before crossing the lake and returning to my home and family in Goma. Such is the life of the Administrator – working behind the scenes and on multiple projects to support our veterinarians so they can focus on the important work of keeping our Grauer’s gorillas healthy! My counterparts in Rwanda and Uganda, Schadrack Niyonzima and Sylivia Nakimera, respectively, do the same to help protect the health of mountain gorillas in Volcanoes, Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks.

Jackson on ferry crossing Lake Kivu.