sábado, 23 de outubro de 2010


From august 9 to october 7 I was visiting some african friend colleagues I met some years ago.

The travel comprised four countries: Kenya, Uganda, Dem. Rep. Of Congo and Tanzania.

My contacts where Daniel Onsembe in Kenya, John Makombo in Uganda, Jobogo Mirindi in Congo and Wayne Lotter in Tanzania.

At the arrival in Nairobi Daniel, the first african ranger I met in my life (in Poland in 1995) was waiting for me and that was the very begining of an unforgetable travel. Since that day the mentioned friends were always ready to pave the road of my trip and help me in all ways. Sincerelly I did not expect to receive the formidable attention I enjoyed during all the time I spent in East Africa.

While everybody I met was very willing to help my travel be the best rewarding as possible, I have to mention the commitment of Jobogo Mirindi. Jobogo while living in Goma, Congo, travelled to Kampala, Uganda, some days before my visit to have a meeting with John Makombo and together make the itinerary of my trip.

The itinerary was very seriously prepared and the timing was just perfect, so I was able to experience different ecosystems and protected areas managements.

Daniel Onsembe first took me to visit Lake Nakuru N.P.,a very interesting park where kenyans are able to maintain a good population of Rhinos in spite of having a city besides the park. The management of the basin of the lake has improved recently and flamingos are coming back to the lake. Later I went to Mount Elgon where I was kindly wellcome by its manager A.O. Ibrahimand who provided a guide to me, so I could visit the famous cave where elephants enter in search of minerals. Then we travelled to South Turkana N. Ps. Located in a remote area where some turkana people approached to see me, and some also to touch my hands, because the sight of a white person is not common there. The Turkana area is wild and we saw young men herding cattle armed with AK 47. There was an event to open a new school financed by Kenya Wildlife Service, and after the speeches and abundant luch for several tens of persons I heard two shots, probably a dispute betwen the herdmen.

At the end of the visit Daniel took me to very near the borded with Uganda.

My first morning in Kampala I went very early to the Head Quarters of Uganda Wildlife Authority and John was already there. I met John during the IRF Congress in Kruger in 2000. I remember that his hand was the first african hand that took mine to talk walking, a pure demonstration of friendship, something I learnt to do and did more than once during this trip.

In Uganda I first went to Lake Mburo N.Park and was intruduced to its manager Masereka Johnson there. There was a wild fire and I could take part in the fire control for a while untill rangers left the place. Figthing fire with branches was something I did not do since my visit to Mozambique, ten years ago.

Later I Visited Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. There I met Charles Tumwesigye, the manager who invited me to visit an habituated group of gorillas, something I wanted to do since I knew about this animals at ten. Later I took part in a memorable three days long joint patroll. The party was comprised by rangers from different parts of the park and we had a great time together.

Everything was remarkable during this actrivity, but I will always remember the kind leathership of Erik and the warm feeling of being part of a team.

It was not easy to walk up and down with my beloved backpack the steep slopes of the mountains covered by a very green forest that the second day showed to be near impenetrable. The first night we slept some 200 m from a gorilla group, something we discovered next morning when saw them.

The second night we did not find running water in a stream which was dry and we had to continue downslope some more time. When water appeared we set camp in a new place and Erik named it “Carlos”. During the patroll one time we met a gorilla group under habituation and they scaped inmediately. There was no illegal activity, but the rangers went to inspect some noise we heard. It was an old man searching for gold at the right side of the stream, something allowed.

After that I visited Mgahinga Gorilla N.P. First I was invited to see the golden monkeys, a very nice experience and later I went to visit a gorilla group. There are many opinions concerning the existence of more or less gorilla subspecies, but to me this ones look different from the ones of Bwindi.

While at Mgahinga I was able to speack several times with the manager Pontious Ezuma who make me feel I was part of the team. I was not allowed to enter Rwanda and had to go back to Uganda and wait for Jobogo to get to the border.

After spending some very nice days in the Community bandas of Bwindi I was taken to the border and Joined Jobogo in his country.

Fortunately Jobogo had arranged my visit to be enriched with the presence of two young italian filmakers : Alessandro and Jenny. They were producing a documentary to show among other things the support provided to the widows of rangers by Federparcci, the federation of Italian National Parks.

We travelled many kilometres and visited several villages. There were different kinds of projects, for younger widows there were projects to teach them how to make cloths, how to cook food for special events and for older widows with less opportunities to develop a new skill the support was to give them with a couple of goats to provide milk for the family.

While in Rumangabo, the Head Quarter of the Southen Sector of Virunga National Park I could not be intruduced to the Director of the park because he was somewhere else, but I was glad to meet Joel Wengamulayi, the Administrative officer. While I was waiting to meet him it came to me a young belgium man who in a friendly way told me that he was there to develop the ecotourism activities in Virunga.

When I told to the young belgium expert that I was planning to see the gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega !he told me if that was in Uruguay! I was so surprised by his response that I am not sure what I answered. No doubt this expert will learn many things in Congo.

For some reason it seems that in some countries foreigners are easily wellcomed as experts while the true experts are locals. My country falls in this category too, but the lack of knowledge of this belgium expert was insulting.

At the other tip of the chain of human caracters, also at Rumangabo I met Mr. Katembo Samedi, one of the heroes of nature conservation whom was shot in a knee while performing a patrol anti deforestation. He was shot nearly a month before and fortunately was recovering well.

After visiting the southern sector of the park I crossed Lake Kivu and visited Kahuzi-Biega National Park home of the east lowland gorillas. Radar Nishuli the manager of the park inmediately arranged my visit to a group of gorillas and I was able to see them two hours after my arrival to the park.

I bought a goat, some potatoes and beer and that night we had a very good meal among colleagues and new friends. There I told to the 24 rangers gathered that the IRF has the idea of creating a program Rangers Without Borders. I told them what would be their oppinion of something like that and we shared some ideas. At one moment one of the ranger stand and said he was talking in the name of all, he said they were very happy for the visit of someone of the IRF, he said they felt baked by the visit, and that even when we were many men and threre was only one goat the value of that dinner was of a thousand goats because of the friendship.

All tem were willing the RWB comes true and be able to share the day to day life of the congolese rangers with colleagues from other countries.

Prior to this I had spoken about the possibility of creating the RWB with all the Park Managers I met and all of them were very enthusiastic about the program.

After visiting Kahuzi-Biega I crossed again Lake Kivu and joined Jobogo and the italian filmmakers one more time. We travelled to the central sector of Virunga and we stopped to visit the memorial of the rangers killed while defending the integrity of Virunga National Park.

The epitaph is located in a beautiful place besides a magical river, and at the back of the observer there are tall hills covered with trees.

We were only four persons, but all of us separated from the others and I believe all of us wanted to have some minutes by our own, maybe to share the moment with those whom we will never met and died defending what I believe is the most beautiful national park I have seen in Africa. The low sound of the running water helped me to scape from the moment and think. Several times Jobogo told me “You do not know the abundance of wildlife that this park had” and several times I replied to him. I can see it, and the wildlife will come back. Virunga still has very good habitat.

I felt the same I felt while with Roberto Zolho during a visit to Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique. I felt that nature is forgiving and rewards the effort of rangers. Recently I was told that Gorongosa has many animals again, and the same will happen in Virunga.

After visiting Congo I returned to Uganda to visit Queen Elizabeth N. P. Tom Okello the manager was waiting for me and also arranged a very nice itinerary. The wellcome given by nature was a leopard kill we discovered among the bush and two lionesses sleeping on a tree. From there I visited the last protected area in Uganda: Kibale where I met Asa Musinguzi.

At kibale I was surprised by a forest recovery project, the best I have seen and later I was invited to take part in the chimpanzee tracking. This activity was impresive due to the difficulty of tracking this animals, the beauty of the rainforest and the activity of the chimps.

When I came back to Kampala John Makombo unfortunately was suffering a malaria attack and I could not see him.

Then I travelled to Tanzania, met Wayne Lotter and Kristine Clark, stayed with them some days, and begun a second part of my trip dedicated to visit some protected areas by my own. I must say that Krissie Clark surprised me by his many skills and kindness I am very glad to know that she will organise next IRF Congress. She is one of those persons that when are commited to do something do it very well.

Unfortunately my english does not let me express myself as I wish I could do, but I want to thank very much all the friends and colleagues I met during this trip and I wish one day I could do something for them. I met many more colleagues than the few mentioned here but to all of them I what to tell them a couple of for I loved to pronounce and that I will always miss:

! Asante sana!

(Many thanks)

Juan Carlos (Juca) Gambarotta

0 comentários:

Enviar um comentário