from JEAN KASSONGO in Kinshasa, DRC
KINSHASA, (CAJ News) – DEMOCRATIC Republic of Congo (DRC) conservationist, Jackson Mbeke, has been awarded the sixth Virginia McKenna Award for Compassionate Conservation.
The £15 000 award provides support and recognition for outstanding individual conservationists who place a high priority on animal welfare, while undertaking environmental education around the world, conservation policy, or the protection of species under threat.
Mbeke is the Director of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE).
“I am honoured to receive the Virginia McKenna Award and to be recognised for the work GRACE is doing for the gorillas,” he said.
“This award means so much to me, the team, and the local communities we partner. I cannot thank Born Free enough. This has boosted our spirits, and we will work to multiply our efforts for gorillas.”
Virginia McKenna OBE, Born Free Foundation Co-Founder and Trustee, hailed Mbeke for his life-saving work on behalf of the endangered Grauer’s gorilla.
“His unswerving dedication to the conservation of these highly threatened animals, the forests they inhabit, and the communities who share those same forests, should be an inspiration to all,” McKenna said.
Established in 2009, GRACE is renowned as the world’s only sanctuary for critically endangered eastern lowland gorillas, which are considered one of the 25 most endangered primates in the world, with only 3 800 remaining.
GRACE cares for 14 orphaned gorillas rescued from poachers and works to rehabilitate them.
Dr Sonya Kahlenberg, GRACE’s Executive Director, said Mbeke led the DRC team through a very difficult period characterised by armed conflict and Ebola but he never once considered giving up.
“Instead, he took things a day at a time and kept everyone focused on the important work of caring for gorillas,” Kahlenberg said.
– CAJ News