Winner avatar
2018 Whitley Award
Winner of the Whitley Award donated by Arcus Foundation
Dominique Bikaba Democratic Republic of the Congo Terrestrial
Ensuring the survival of DRC’s eastern lowland gorillas


Mobile phone, laptop, and electric car ownership require us all to make environmental trade-offs. Over 60% of global cobalt supplies for manufacture of these appliances and other minerals important for modern lives, are produced in DRC. Yet resources from this nation often come at a high human and ecological price. Mining is often associated with wildlife exploitation, including gorillas, which are caught in snares set by miners to capture bushmeat.


Numbers of Grauer’s gorillas have fallen to just 3,800 individuals. Fortunately in the Burhinyi Community Forest (BCF) of eastern DR-Congo, Dominique, Founder of the NGO Strong Roots, is working to empower people and give gorillas a chance. Communities have agreed to commit 3,000 km2 of forest to great ape conservation, but for wildlife to survive, people must have access to livelihoods and future development.


Strong Roots are improving food security to reduce pressure on forest resources. Dominique is re-planting degraded habitat and using education to spread the conservation message. The vision is to establish a protected forest corridor to allow gorilla movement between the Kahuzi-Biega National Park and the Itombwe Reserve. By enabling communities to claim their land title, he aims to secure the future of both wildlife and people.

DOMINIQUE’S project will:

  • Improve farming techniques and crop production, training people in agro-forestry to help reduce poverty and dependency on the forest.
  • Grow membership of the Primate Monitoring Team – made up of ex-poachers and local women – to collect data on gorillas.
  • Establish six community committees to create a management plan for the BCF with the aim of increasing gorilla numbers and ensuring their long term protection.
  • Seek legal protection of a vital habitat

Why it matters:

  • At least half of South Kivu families are involved in exploitation of timber, hunting and artisanal mining.
  • Demand for cobalt is growing, with prices rising 127% during 2017.
  • The area also supports the eastern chimpanzee, okapi and forest elephants.

“Education is key to conservation, as it takes time for people to understand, engage and change their behaviour.”

Film footage: Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance, Canadian Ape Alliance