Pole Pole Foundation (POPOF)

Mountain Gorilla Troop. DRC - Denys Kutsevalov.


Pole Pole – An Earthshot Prize Finalist (£100,000 a year for three years / £300,000 in total)

 We are very happy to share the news that ERF have partnered with Pole Pole (POPOF), in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DNC). POPOF is a grassroots NGO that has spent 30 years working with local communities to protect the critically endangered Eastern Lowland (Grauer’s) Gorilla in Kahuzi-Biega National Park (KBNP), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The KBNP is a protected territory and a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.

John Kahekwa created Pole Pole (POPOF) in 1992 after he saw gorillas being caught in snares and losing their limbs and decided to ask a poacher why he did what he did. The poacher replied, ‘empty stomachs have no ears’; thus, poaching was the only way to feed his family. John asked him if he provided an alternative job, would the man stop poaching, and he replied, ‘Yes, of course!’. Thus, POPOF was born.

POPOF was a 2021 Earthshot Finalist and has won many other prestigious awards, including the UN Equator Prize in 2006, the Marsh Award in 2012, the Whitney Award in 2013, and the Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa in 2016.

This funding will help protect the gorillas by tackling the root causes of deforestation and poaching: poverty and hunger. It will also help them scale their work with communities to protect the critically endangered Grauer’s gorilla and their forest habitat.

The £100,000 per year grant (£300,000 in total) will enable them to open more of the Grauer’s gorilla habitat, helping them to expand into the lowland sector of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park (KBNP) and the Itombwe Reserve.

The grant also provides core funding for their operating costs and crucial seed capital to establish larger projects, including transformational funding to enable them to finalise the strategy for restoring the degraded 23 km ecological corridor. Restoring this connection between the Highland and Lowland sectors of KBNP will enable gorilla families to roam more freely. It also creates the exciting prospect that the few suspected remaining forest elephants in the Lowland sector could return to the Highland.

Having three years of funding enables POPOF to develop a more strategic plan, including attracting further grant funding to scale their work, while also enabling them to establish an emergency reserves funding pot that will help them overcome any challenges that may emerge in future from operating in the challenging environment of the DNC.

We would also like to thank the Earthshot Prize for their work introducing ERF and POPOF.