Day 6 - May 26
A Surprising Encounter in Bonn: A Testimonial from Dominique Bikaba, Community Dorf participant
A surprising encounter in Bonn during the Community Dorf's trip at the Eifel National Park
It was an exciting day, a sunny Sunday, when we took our buses from the town of Bonn for a trip to the Eifel National Park. When I landed in Germany, I was already impressed by all the tress and many patches of forest I saw everywhere.. I was eager to visit the national park and be out of the city for a day. On our way to the park, we saw large plantations of crops and many windmills that also attracted my curiosity. However, I had to wait until we arrived at the national park to ask all my questions.
The Director of the Eifel National Park welcomed us when we arrived, describing the different trails that tour the different areas and departments of the park. It was all very impressive.
During the visit we learned about the park's history, its fauna and flora, and its status as a Category II protected area by IUCN classification. I then understood why we could see sheep grazing in the park and guides with their dogs on the trails. I wondered about the health and conservation precautions at the Eifel National park. Kahuzi-Biega National Park- where my organization is based in DR Congo- is totally protected as a Category I
by the IUCN.
After the park visit and a wonderful lunch provided by the park management, we had an interesting tour of Vogelsang Castle, a military facility that housed refugees from bombed German cities during World War II. The castle was located in the middle of Eifel
National Park and had opened to the public in 2006. I wanted to learn more about German history and culture so the experience was particularly valuable.
When our tours ended, I noticed a woman at an exhibit stand wearing a t-shirt with a gorilla sign on it. Intrigued, I moved closer to get a better look. I also happened to be wearing a gorilla t-shirt from POLE POLE FOUNDATION on which it is written "Environmental Education Program, Gorilla Conservation, Kahuzi-Biega National Park." When I approached the stand, I was impressed to see a large number of children chatting with the woman in the gorilla t-shirt. I introduced myself to the woman saying: "Hello, I am Dominique from DR Congo". She replied, "Hello, welcome, I am Ravid and I work for Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe (Direct Assistance for Gorillas and Rainforests)." I knew about the work of this non-governmental organization from DR Congo, since some of my colleagues have published in the organization's Gorilla Journal. I noticed most of the papers and posters on the stand contained photos and information from Kahuzi-Biega National Park.
Ravid had been quizzing the children about gorillas when I walked up, and she showed me the questions she was asking. I started speaking to the children about gorillas and took over administering the quiz. I was surprised how much the children knew about gorillas. These German children were well-informed about gorilla conservation issues thanks to the initiatives of Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe. I was very happy that day, and I didn't want to leave. So many children kept coming to the stand, asking questions and chatting about gorillas.
As the day ended and I had to return to Bonn, Ravid asked me if I would accept a gift of a computer. I told her that a computer would be very welcome! That evening, Ravid's husband Sasha brought the computer to my hotel in Bonn; it was an Acer brand laptop with very good features. The gift will greatly help me with the gorilla conservation projects in Congo. I have maintained contact with Ravid since our meeting and we plan to duplicate some of the Berggorilla teaching materials to use in our Environmental Education Program at Kahuzi-Biega National Park in Congo.
From my trip to Bonn, I understand that my work and the biodiversity at Kahuzi-Biega National Park are valued by other nations: First, because the Equator Initiative recognized our initiative as a model to help communities and the environment, and second, because I met people very far from my area who were talking about our work and explaining and educating children about it. I feel very proud!
By Dominique Bikaba
POPOF / Kahuzi-Biega National Park
Bukavu, D R Congo