The Fossey Fund has a large group of dedicated gorilla trackers and anti-poachers in the field every day protecting the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, and as the gorillas continue to expand their ranging areas, we have had a need for additional field staff.
Luckily, we received almost 300 applications for six new gorilla tracker positions and made a “short” list of 72 candidates! But that is only the start of a long process, which includes a written exam and then interviews for those who do well.
Many of those who reached this stage of the process were already familiar with the Fossey Fund, having come through our Karisoke Research Center either as college students or as interns. Our education programs in Rwanda are designed to help train the next generation of conservationists, scientists and other leaders, so we are proud to see the impact of this capacity-building effort so clearly when we have positions available.
“The new trackers will be an important addition to our team,” says Jean Paul Hirwa, the Fossey Fund’s Gorilla Program Manager in Rwanda. “We are facing challenges of gorillas expanding their home ranges into remote areas, as well as other changes in gorilla dynamics. With the new staff on board, we will be better able to deal with these challenges.”
The next step for the new trackers is to be mentored by senior staff, in order to learn the protocols for tracking gorillas, identifying individuals, understanding the vegetation of the habitat, finding gorilla trails, and being able to navigate in the dense forest.
“The first few months are the hardest, since they have to learn many skills and also have to adapt to the difficult conditions of the rainy, mountain forest,” says Hirwa.
One of the trackers who just made it through the strenuous selection process is Pelagie Mutuyimana, who says she used to hear stories about gorillas when she was a child and became curious about them. “At school, I learned that gorillas are endangered and I wished that one day I could help with their conservation,” she adds. “Now, I am very happy that I can actually see them every day, observe their behaviors, and contribute to their protection!”
The Fossey Fund’s gorilla trackers are on the front lines every day, protecting the gorillas against all threats and we are grateful for their dedication and hard daily work, motivation and determination. They are truly conservation heroes!