In the 1,500 square kilometers (580 square miles) big Ebo forest in the Congo Basin, rare primates such as chimpanzees and gorillas live. They are in high demand by poachers. Eight years ago, scientists from Cameroon and the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance launched the Ebo Forest Research Project. Their goal: protect the forest and its inhabitants.
The Ebo Forest Research Project started the Gorilla Guardian Club to achieve this. It’s a club that allows villagers to participate in monitoring the forest, and it exists in three local communities. Many in the village used to make their living as poachers. Now they are involved in the conservatorship of the endangered animals.
One villager, Jean Tili, used to be a poacher, but now he sets up camera traps instead of actual traps. He also uses his tracking skills to help monitor and collect data on primate populations.
To participate, the villagers must join the Gorilla Guardian Club. They are paid for the work they do, and thereby they can leave poaching in the past. Villagers who are not collecting data receive training in animal husbandry and agriculture.
The Optimist Daily writes, “Poachers turned farmers live a more stable life, because hunting is not actually very lucrative, and the income is unpredictable. Now, those who have chosen to join the club and learn how to work the land are able to enjoy regular hours and a steady income.”
The scientists involved in the project train local teachers in the village so they can teach the community’s youngest members to protect the rainforest and its wildlife. They hope that giving young people an early understanding of nature and living in peace with it will create a future where poaching’s no longer an attractive career choice.