Partners in Conservation

To address the bushmeat trade and deforestation in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo by means of environmental education and fundraising


Two of the major environmental concerns in Central Africa are the bush meat trade and deforestation, especially where gorillas and other great ape species are concerned. Poverty and a lack of jobs paying a liveable wage are also endemic to these areas. These seemingly distantly connected problems intersect and feed off of one another in a vicious cycle. Often many of the most lucrative "jobs" involve illegal hunting and/or deforestation and the resulting environmental degradation reduces the opportunities for families to escape from poverty.

Partners In Conservation (PIC) was founded and initiated at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium as part of the answer to this problem. While many conservation programmes come from the perspective of saving endangered animals and habitats first, PIC approaches conservation in these areas holistically, educating local people about the importance of conservation and giving them alternative means to earn wages that are conservation-friendly. By collaborating with local populations and providing them with education, skills, and liveable-wage jobs, PIC helps indigenous people become directly invested in saving their environment, which in turn, helps to conserve gorillas and other vulnerable wildlife in this area of the world.


Partners In Conservation's central mission is to conserve the vanishing mountain gorillas and their wild spaces through respectfully assisting local people. PIC's two main goals are:


  1. To create holistic educational programmes for children and adults that address the needs of both wildlife and loeal people.
  2. To raise money to benefit both conservation and humanitarian projects.

Since 1991, PIC has invested its efforts in conservation and humanitarian works in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), realizing that conservation of gorillas and other wildlife starts with the local people. PIC's fundamental belief is that by helping local populations to better their lives and thrive without poaching and deforestation, these people then are empowered to conserve their wild places. This is part of what makes PIC unique: its conservation efforts are focused on helping people to become self-sufficient and invested in their wild places, knowing that once people's lives are secure, conservation will follow.

PIC also started its effort to offer individuals - some who may never visit Africa – opportunities to get intimately involved with conservation and humanitarian work in Rwanda and the DRC. These people help to create the Rwandan Fete (PICs annual fundraiser), purchase artisan materials, and raise funds for on-the-ground humanitarian and conservation efforts in Central Africa.

To accomplish its mission, PIC supports several of its own projects/programmes throughout Central Africa and funding support to several partner projects and programmes. These projects include


  • Nyungwe National Park: Loeated in southwestern Rwanda, Nyungwe National Park is home to chimpanzees and other endangered species. PIC supports three projects associated with this forest: a beekeeping project, an energy saving stove project, and a basket making project - all of which have worked to reduce deforestation, forest fires, and pressure on the rain forest. In turn, this helps to preserve the forest and its indigenous (and often endangered) wildlife.

  • The Artisan Project: PIC provides economic assistance to more than 400 people from 16 artisan cooperatives through using fair trade practices to purchases the artisans' works. by working closely with these cooperatives, PIC empowers the artisans to beself-sufficient without depleting forest resources.

  • Imbabazi Orphanage: PIC supports operating expenses for this orphanage, which carcs for 116 Rwandan children who were orphaned during the genocide. PIC also provides tuition fees for secondary and college students from the orphanage. While this is not directly related to PICs conservation efforts, the Rwandan government was so impressed with PICs assistance to Imbabazi, that they opened the doors for PIC to have productive conservation talks with the Rwandan wildlife authorities.

  • UBUMWE Community Center (UCC): Founded by a teacher from the Imbabazi Orphanage and a young man maimed in the Rwandan genocide, UCC helps disabled Rwandan adults and children to live productive and independent lives. UCC offers education, job skills and training, meals, and artisan training to people of all abilities. Recently, UCC added classes for deaf children, who would normally never have the chance to go to school. PIC provides operating support and other funding support to UCC, including hot meals and the purchase and repair of prosthetics for children and adults requiring them.

  • The Zoo Connection: initiated in 1993, this project connects students in primary and secondary schools in America, Rwanda, and the DRC. The Zoo Connection enables students to exchange information through school initiatives related to conservation, the environment, and each others' cultures.

  • Education First: PIC provides college scholarships to men and women who work in a PIC partner project.

  • Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP): PIC collaborates with MGVP to fund health care for more than 200 trackers and their families, reducing the risk of infecting gorillas with human diseases. PIC also helps to fund salaries for the caregivers of infant gorillas confiscated from poachers.

  • Pole Pole Foundation (POPOF): PIC purchases animal carvings made by former poachers, enabling these artisans to make more money through wood carvings than they did through poaching. Also as part of this partnership, PIC helps provide operating support for a POPOF operated school that teaches children about the environment and the value of conservation; PIC also funded the construction of this environmental school.

  • Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI): PIC pays the annual salaries for five gorilla trackers, purchases field equipment, and funds a language programme in English and French for trackers through this partnership. Also through DFGH, PIC provides text books and educational materials to the Sisate Primary School; many of the gorilla trackers’ children attend this school.


WAZA Conservation Project 08019 is implemented by Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.


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