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Protecting the world’s endangered mountain gorillas

Jean Pierre Mirindi Jobogo

>>The Link spoke to Jean Pierre about his work in the more than 10 years since he was awarded a fellowship to study for an MSc in World Heritage Management at UCD in 2005. Today he is Chief Park Warden in charge of the central sector of Virunga National Park.

Before I came to UCD I was a Senior Warden at Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. When I completed my studies at UCD, I got promoted to Chief Park Warden in charge of the central sector of Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, on the border of Uganda and Rwanda. Virunga is Africa’s oldest national park and is also the continent’s most biologically diverse protected area. Virunga is home to a quarter of the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas and these gorillas were my main research topic at UCD.

I chose the World Heritage Management course at UCD as it was the only one of its kind and covered both biology and environmental studies. The course trains people working in protected areas management, especially those working in the world heritage sites. It prepared us to be able to draw a management plan and a wide knowledge of the values of archaeological and natural heritages.

Through the programme, I gained a wide view of conservation planning and risk management. I learned how to deal with communities surrounding the reserve and natural catastrophe affecting the heritage site that we protect.

While living in Ireland, I found that Irish people are friendly and the social environment met my expectation, my adaptation was straight forward with no barrier.  I had to work hard and feed myself with the university life. The course was both theoretical and practical with well experienced lecturers. Today I still feel part of the Irish society and able to return to Ireland to share my work experience with others and feel at home.

When I returned to DRC, it was not easy to adjust. Senior managers sometimes have difficulty accepting the skills and knowledge of newly-trained staff and that sometimes led to conflict.  I organised training sessions to share knowledge with colleagues about my course and my research.

In 2010, I got a significant promotion. Since I was able to speak English, it gave me the opportunity to travel and lead some workshops, and I was invited to become part of the team to draw the Transboundary Management Strategic Plan.

One year ago, I was appointed to re-launch the management plan of the Kundelungu Park in the southern DRC. Today I am a Chief Park Warden and aspire to be promoted as Director at managerial level.

In 2014, I received a “Lifetime Achievement Award’ from the International Ranger Federation at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney. It was great to get that type of recognition.

Looking into the future, I wish to start a training programme and write a book sharing my experience with others. Although life is full of memories, challenges and success, my time at UCD contributed a lot in boosting my career. At the same time I feel confident to manage any kind of nature reserve through the practical and academic experience I gained in Ireland.

Note: Prior to Irish Aid adopting a partnership approach, it sometimes awarded fellowships to applicants from non-partner countries such as DRC.