The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund has nearly 70 mountain gorilla trackers in Rwanda, as well as anti-poachers, research assistants, and data technicians, all of whom are in the forest every day, protecting and studying individual gorilla groups.
Some of our trackers have been with us for a very long time, while others are newer. All of them go through a rigorous selection and training process, which ensures that they will be able to handle the challenging daily routine of following the gorillas.
Our longest-serving tracker is Jean Damascene Hategekimana, who has now been with us for more than 25 years! He actually began as a cook but after a year he joined the tracker team and now he is our field data coordinator, helping to manage all of our trackers and organize their daily schedules in the forest.
Fundi started out working with an historic gorilla group named after the late silverback Shinda, and then continued with the historic Pablo group, as well as Ntambara group, both of which still exist today.
Fundi’s work with Shinda’s group was notable, because Shinda was notorious for being one of the more aggressive silverbacks we have observed and had a history of biting trackers and researchers who were observing the group. Fundi says this about his time in that group: “Shinda and I were good friends; he bit me once, then after that he was no longer afraid of me and he came to accept me as part of the group, or part of the family.”
Fundi has seen many memorable events among the gorilla over the years, such as groups forming and dissipating, and says he especially cherishes seeing newborn gorillas. Most of all, he says he is happy to see the mountain gorilla population increasing. “This gives me the energy to continue working hard to keep them safe in their environment,” he says.
“Like many scientists and researchers who have worked with Fundi over the years, I am amazed by his knowledge of gorillas, their behaviors and his love for his job,” says Felix Ndagijimana, the Fossey Fund’s head of Rwanda programs. None of the Fossey Fund’s research and conservation activities would be possible without hardworking, dedicated people like Fundi. He serves as an ambassador for gorilla conservation in his community and to all of us in Rwanda.”
Best advice from Fundi?
“People should get involved in knowing their environment and biodiversity in general. Otherwise, they will not be aware about damage they may cause to their own environment.”
Certainly without dedicated trackers like Fundi, mountain gorilla conservation would not be the success it is today. Everyone at the Fossey Fund is grateful to Fundi for his many years of devotion to the gorillas and their important forest habitat.