Instagram – June 25th, 2019

Some of the most important words we’ve ever read about the relationships between wildlife and communities in Africa’s most iconic area and what we can do to help, understand and educate. Thank you @sophy_roberts 🙏🏼 #Repost @sophy_roberts with @get_repost
🔊🔊 Total joy. The persuasive innocence of childhood……… What this video doesn’t show is the truth of this child’s past and uncertain future. She belongs to the Batwa people – the forest dwellers from the #Virunga Massif in #Uganda, #Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the #Congo. As recently as 1992, some of the Batwa lost their ancestral homeland when Uganda gazetted new national parks, and the Batwa were cast out of the forest with nowhere to go. The mountain gorillas – with whom these people had always lived in harmony – became the flag-bearer of a new (and very successful) conservation story. But there is a dark complexity behind the wildlife security. The indigenous people lost their subsistence forest economy. They are having to learn to cultivate the land – if only they had any to call their own. Six years ago – before this child was born – I encountered the Batwa here in the shadow of Mgahinga volcano in Uganda. It was overwhelmingly sad: filthy makeshift settlements, sick kids, humiliated men unable to understand their new lives. Prostitution was a desperate attempt by mothers to make ends meet. Something had to change. Thanks to one very special person called Praveen Moman, that same community of Batwa – today numbering over 100 people – have now got their own property: 13 acres, plus 18 newly constructed homes, a community centre visited by a nurse, and clean water. Some have work opportunities at the nearby Mount Gahinga Lodge, which Moman owns. His safari company which helps bankroll all this work is called @volcanoes.safaris . If you want to go see the #gorillas, then I would urge you to travel with this organisation. Blind innocence should be the privilege of any childhood, wherever we are born – but willing ignorance can surely no longer play a part in a modern tourist’s psyche in these changing times.