The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund is extremely saddened to report that research assistant Alain Mundola was killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo on the night of Aug. 28-29. Alain was the first Congolese research assistant to work with us at Kahuzi-Biega National Park in Congo, where the only habituated groups of critically endangered Grauer’s gorillas are located. Alain was in charge of behavioral and demographic data collection in these groups.
Prior to this work, Alain had volunteered with our trackers at our Nkuba Conservation Area, where we study and protect non-habituated Grauer’s gorillas in community-managed forests. All of this work is critical, because Grauer’s gorillas are among the world’s 25-most endangered primates.
Alain distinguished himself as an excellent field worker and after four months of field work at Nkuba, he was assigned to our work in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, at first with our study on bamboo phenology and then also for data collection on the Grauer’s gorillas. He quickly learned how to identify individual gorillas there.
“Alain was an important person in our Congo program and for conservation of wildlife in Kahuzi-Biega,” says Urbain Ngobobo, the Fossey Fund’s program director in Congo. “He had courage and exceptional commitment to this difficult work, and was a devoted and skilled researcher and conservationist. He also knew how to help and motivate his colleagues and staff, so his loss will be widely felt.”
Fossey Fund Congo Research Director Dr. Damien Caillaud says: “My friend and colleague Alain was a great human being, passionate about wildlife and dedicated to helping his country protect its forests. I am certain that he was going to have an exceptional career and achieve great things. I will miss his sense of humor and the long discussions we used to have in the forest about science, politics, and life.”
“Our field staff are truly on the frontlines of conservation and it is heartbreaking to lose such a young and promising member,” says Fossey Fund CEO and Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Tara Stoinski. “We will always be grateful to Alain for his hard work in difficult conditions. His sacrifice will not be forgotten, as we all work together toward the future of conservation.”
Alain had earned a bachelor’s degree in agronomy from the Evangelical University of Bukavu in Congo, and it was hoped he would have a bright and growing future in conservation.