After more than thirty years in DR Congo, I am now coordinator of the TL2 project (Tshuapa-Lomami-Lualaba project). I work closely with Ashley, who is now paddling up the Lomami and keeping us updated in this blog. But you will read me here, too, working to the north and west of TL2 and putting nature conservation in the local context — as I understand it.
I came to the Ituri Forest in 1974 as a Peace Corps volunteer. Those two years I taught high school Biology, lived in a Swahili-speaking family and collected dragonflies. John Hart, a friend from college, also in Congo, and I decided to get married. This idea came one night on a two-month bicycle trip we took along the Albertine Rift.
In 1980 we returned to DR Congo together, with a 2 year old daughter, to do our PhD research, John on rain forest antelope and myself, the trees. After two and a half years in the Ituri Forest we returned to the States, now with two daughters.
The first project John and I shared was a study of rainforest giraffe, the Okapi. Based in Congo’s Ituri Forest we captured okapi, put on radio collars and then followed the released animals with hand-held antenna over a 50 sq km checkerboard trail system. During that four-year project our third (and last) daughter was born. New York Zoological Society continued to support us as we diversified our animal and forest work. We also built a Research and Training Center (CEFRECOF) and I was first director. We worked with our colleagues to assure that part of the Ituri Forest was protected as the Okapi Reserve.
During the years of Congo’s Civil Wars 1996 – 2002, I moved to a more national approach to conservation. From the capital, Kinshasa, I served briefly as national director for an international conservation NGO. Now, still from a Kinshasa base, I work independently with conservation of Congo’s little-known natural richness as first priority. And top of the list is exploration of the Tshuapa-Lomami-Lualaba basins (TL2). As coordinator of the TL2 project, I am convinced we will find out what must be protected and help make conservation a reality.