I fell in love with the park during a school trip in 1969. After finishing my studies in wildlife conservation in Cameroon, I began working for ICCN in Virunga as a research assistant. After a year I moved to Kahuzi-Biega National Park where I worked with Adrian Deschryver on habituating the lowland gorillas there. A stint at Garamba National Park and the Okapi Faunal Reserve followed. I then came back to Virunga and have stayed here ever since. I have been Chief Warden in the past, but am now happy to be working for my friend Emmanuel de Merode who is now running the show.
Conservation is a tricky business, with moments of satisfaction as well as frustration. I remember the early days when we were trying to habituate the Mushamuka group of 23 gorillas. The first time the silverback attacked me and ripped my shirt, the second time he pulled me by the leg, and the third time he pushed me over. But in the end we were able to gain his trust, thanks largely to the pygmy trackers we employed.
I will also never forget when we had to evacuate the hundreds of thousands of Rwandan genocide refugees who had overrun the park in 1995.
I am preoccupied by the future of Virunga National Park, as it continues to pay the heavy price of the consecutive wars of 1994, 1996, 1998, and the current conflict. The almost constant presence of armed groups in the park is unacceptable. We need lobbying to take place at the highest international level to remove these armed groups and the political will of our government to better support the Congolese Wildlife Authority. I dream of a preserved park in its former glory, repopulated with diverse wildlife and benefiting the local population.