I have been a ranger for 35 years. I am married to Antoinette and we have eight children, including our son Innocent, who I am proud to say is the ranger in charge of gorilla monitoring.
I grew up in Rutambi, in the Rutshuru area, where I was first exposed to wildlife conservation through my older brother Annicet. He was one of the first wildlife wardens in Virunga after we gained our independence from Belgium. When I went to visit my brother, I was very impressed by the wildlife and the visiting tourists, so I decided to work in conservation, too.
In 1973, I was sent north to Garamba National Park for my training. I was then sent back down to Virunga National Park, where I worked as a tracker around Nyamulagira volcano. Three years later, I moved to the Nyiragongo volcano, where I witnessed the great eruption of 1977. Then, in 1980, I was deployed to Bukima, which is the main mountain gorilla sector of the park.
It was in Bukima that I worked with the scientist Conrad Aveling on the habituation of mountain gorillas. Dr. Aveling is a great man and he has been of immense service to Virunga National Park. Habituating mountain gorillas was a difficult and sometimes dangerous job. One day, while following the Rugabo group, several females came up and sat next to me. I had no idea they were in heat until the silverback charged me, grabbed me by the arm, and threw me several meters in the air. I dislocated my shoulder and learned a valuable lesson: like humans, mountain gorilla silverbacks don’t appreciate undue attention being paid to their love interests.
The current situation in the park is very difficult, but we maintain hope that things will improve. Knowing there is an international community of people supporting us gives us the strength to carry on.
I have been a Ranger for 35 years. I am married to Antoinette and we have 8 children, including our son Innocent, who I am proud to say is the Ranger in charge of gorilla monitoring.