Dec 24

Behind the scenes at the world’s only mountain gorilla orphanage

virungaNP_620Just in time for Christmas, the vEco team is delighted to bring you this three-panorama virtual tour of the world’s only mountain gorilla orphanage, the Senkwekwe Center located at the headquarters of the Virunga National Park in Rumangabo, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The locations in this tour just happen to be featured at the core of the newly released Oscar-nominated documentary, VIRUNGA. In fact, when our vEco Ambassador, Ian Redmond OBE, recorded the images and videos for this tour the crew for that film were also at the center, and this tour captures the moments just before and during the evacuation (captured on video for this tour) of all expatriates that preceded the approach of the M23 rebel group that set off the dramatic events of VIRUNGA. The tour also features an interview with André Bauma, one of the many park rangers that risked their lives to continue caring for their gorilla charges in spite of civil war, refugee displacements, and armed poachers in addition to marauding rebels, charcoal makers, and illegal oil prospecting. These courageous individuals put their lives on the line every day when they turn up for work, knowing that more than 130 of their colleagues have been killed in action in the past decade. With the release of VIRUNGA, the whole world can marvel at their dedication and their conviction that the future of the Eastern DRC depends on protecting the park as the basis for sustainable development in the surrounding communities.

As you proceed through this vEcotour, you’ll visit the orphans’ night quarters, explore their outdoor habitat, take note of some of their unique behaviours, watch the gorillas roughhouse with their keepers, and learn some of the finer points of persuading gorillas to move from one area of the center to another. You’ll also visit the Humba group, a mature mountain gorilla family that lives nearby, and observe these gentle giants in their natural environment. While you’ll there, you’ll also get a behind-the-lens look at the creation of another feature film, The Last of the Great Apes, and learn about the challenges of filming in 3D in mountain gorilla habitat from the Visionquest film crew.

Dec 24

Don’t miss VIRUNGA, the movie!

Have you seen the oscar-nominated documentary VIRUNGA yet? You should! It is a film with the tense drama, tear-jerking emotion and spectacular imagery of a Hollywood blockbuster, but it is fact not fiction. It features the courageous men and women (and their families) that protect the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo as they defend the park and its inhabitants, including magnificent mountain gorillas, during an episode of turbulent and deadly political upheaval in 2012. It’s a nail-biting piece of investigative journalism in a feature-length documentary format, filmed in Africa as the events unfolded. In recent months it has been winning awards in film festivals, made the short-list for the Oscars, been thrilling audiences in selected cinemas and is now available on Netflix.

By chance, I (Ian Redmond) had the good fortune to be in Virunga in 2012 while filming was under way, and met Orlando von Einsiedel, the director. I was there with an Australian film crew making a very different production, the first 3D movie to depict all six species of great ape and efforts to save them (keep an eye on www.TheLastoftheGreatApes.com for details of its impending release). At the time, Orlando thought he was making a positive documentary about the rebuilding of this amazing park’s shattered infrastructure after the DRC’s civil war was over. Excitedly, he showed me some amazing time-lapse footage he’d just shot of the night sky, with constellations of stars wheeling slowly over the pink glow of Mt Nyiragongo, an active volcano a few miles to the west. But it turned out that not all the local combatants agreed the war was over!

While we were there, a renegade Congolese general, who was wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in the Hague, moved into the forest not far from us with a 1,500-strong force of well-armed rebels. We knew nothing about this until one day, the normally impeccable staff of the Virunga Lodge seemed distracted from the important task of preparing our breakfast. Eventually, the unusually slow service was explained and with some urgency we were informed by the manager that all guests and expatriate staff were to be evacuated immediately as a precaution. We snaffled what breakfast we could and loaded our 54 pieces of luggage (3D movies require a lot of kit!) onto the waiting trucks in the car park. We had in fact heard some distant gunshots during our stay (“just bandits holding up vehicles at night, they won’t bother us here” we were told), but had received nothing but kindness and professional courtesy from our hosts,the parks authority of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They feared, though, that if serious fighting broke out around the Lodge and Park HQ, anyone with a white skin would be a target for potential hostage-taking or worse.

For all those evacuees running projects – training bloodhounds to track poachers, bringing sustainable development to local communities, setting up a pedal-powered cinema team to show conservation films in schools with no mains electricity – the evacuation was a major inconvenience. For the 3D crew, however, this all happened on the day of our planned departure, so apart from a bit of nervous tension as we trundled through places that looked ideal for an ambush, it just speeded us on our way! After the convoy deposited us in Goma, we flew off to film Western Lowland Gorillas in Mondika, a Wildlife Conservation Society funded research camp in Congo Brazzaville. For Orlando and his team though, the dramatic events that unfolded over the following year became the storyline of VIRUNGA. If you care about gorillas, about conservation and the amazing people who are saving our natural heritage, don’t miss it.

Feeling inspired?? The links below will show how you can get involved:

http://virungamovie.com/#trailer – the film’s official website
http://gorillacd.org/ – Virunga National Park’s own website
www.4apes.com – for links to all the organisations helping gorillas and other apes.

Sep 21

Talking Climate Change from the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro

kisu_620In this spectacular vEcotour join with me, Ian Redmond, to experience the exhilaration of reaching the nearly 6000m Uhuru peak on Mount Kilimanjaro!

I recently took on the epic climb up Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania to showcase the impact of climate change on our natural and cultural heritage sites. Joining my concerned climate colleagues Ian SingletonAndy Steel, and Abbie Barnes, the three of us climbed in aid of Ape Alliance, Born Free Foundation, Wild Futures, Gorilla Organization, The Orangutan Foundation, PATT’s Environmental Education Portal project and the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 15

Yosina’s Maiden Voyage

Witnessing the destruction of the unique Coral Triangle area between Indonesia, Philippines and Papua New Guinea faces by pollution, trawling and drift-nets as well as damaging and illegal cyanide and dynamite fishing, the Chimp-n-Sea Wildlife Conservation Fund (vEco’s parent organization), and partner JARI had to do something. In 2013, the ‘Yosina’ was purchased with the aim of creating a “Floating Marine Park” to travel the seas, provide a research platform and to moor at local communities to educate and raise awareness of the threats the region faces.

Happily, the Yosina has just taken her maiden voyage! JARI staff visited several islands, dived both stunningly pristine sites and others which were ruined by bomb fishing, spoke to many locals and now have a list of priorities on how to best use the crowd-funding support given by many, including vEco supporters, to get Yosina up-to-scratch and operating permanently. The video below from JARI features stunning footage of this ground-breaking voyage from a drone (with thanks to Elfian Djajaputra).

Make sure you keep an eye out on vecotourism.org for virtual tours from the Yosina very soon!

 

Aug 19

Welcome, Guardian readers!

vEcotourism.org is pleased to welcome readers of The Guardian’s “Notes&Theories” segment, arriving at our site following our mention in the recent piece entitled “Support our red-haired cousins, the orangutans, before it’s too late“. You can join your host, Ian Redmond, OBE, in our unique interactive virtual ecotours of Orangutan habitat and conservation efforts in Sumatra by clicking on the links below or by consulting the map of tour locations here. Enjoy!

TripaThumb_240shortHigh up in an abandoned Orangutan nest, Tripa palm oil plantation, Aceh province, Indonesia

 

 

 

 

SOCPThumb_240shortAt the off-limits-to-the-public Sumatran Orangtuan Conservation Program (SOCP) quarantine facility in North Sumatra, Indonesia

 

 

 

FeedThumb_240shortUp close with a rescued Orangutan male at the Bukit Lawang feeding platform, North Sumatra, Indonesia

 

 

 

 

If you’d like to stay in touch with vEcotourism.org, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter!

Aug 12

Crossing paths with a forest elephant on World Elephant Day

© Ian Redmond / vEcotourism

vEcotourism.org ambassador Ian Redmond recently had the very good fortune to encounter a magnificent forest elephant while trekking to see mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda.

In our latest “taster” vEcotour, published to coincide with World Elephant Day, you’ll join Ian as he observes this marvellous creature calmly feeding in his native habitat, with a full-fledged version of this tour complete with video footage to follow shortly.  Once you see this gentle giant quietly browsing you can’t help but be moved to help protect these peaceful forest gardeners from the deadly ivory trade.

Click the image above to start your tour. Make sure you also view Ian’s thought-provoking vEcotour of the Paris ivory crush that took place this past February by clicking here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 11

Tusk to Dust: experience the emotion as 3.5 tonnes of ivory are destroyed in Paris, France

© Ian Redmond / vEcotourism

Ahead of World Elephant Day 2014 on August 12th, watch alongside vEcotourism’s ambassador, Ian Redmond, as 3.5 tonnes of illegal ivory tusks are crushed in Paris, France in February 2014. Highlighting the shocking illegal trafficking of ivory which is killing over 30,000 elephants each year, this exceptional event sent a clear message: it is unacceptable to allow this trade to continue.

“In the midst of photographing the scene, doing panos and videoing the action, I was suddenly struck by a pang of emotion while watching the tusks carried along the conveyor belt”, explains Ian, “It was a very moving moment to realise this was effectively a mass funeral, respectfully bidding farewell to the last remains of hundreds of elephant-beings.”

The crush in Paris followed similar shows of support for halting the ivory trade from Gabon, the Philippines, the USA and China.

Immerse yourself in this extraordinary event with our latest virtual tour (vEcotour) and say ‘No!’ to the destructive ivory trade.

Click on the image above or map below to start your tour.

Read more about the ivory crush and the plight elephants are facing at http://bloodyivory.org/ and http://www.bornfree.org.uk/campaigns/elephants/campaign-action/ivory-trade/ivory-crush-paris/

 

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Paris Ivory Crush 48.858200, 2.294500 Tusk to Dust Experience the emotion alongside Ian Redmond as 3.5 tonnes of ivory are destroyed in Paris, France (Feb 2014). Click the image to start your vEcotour.

 

Jul 31

Celebrate World Ranger Day 2014

The Institute in Congo for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) is the government agency of the Democratic Republic of Congo charged with the task of protecting the flora and fauna of the country © Ian Redmond

The Institute in Congo for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) is the government agency of the Democratic Republic of Congo charged with the task of protecting the flora and fauna of the country © Ian Redmond

World Ranger Day on 31 July celebrates the remarkable men and women who work to protect our endangered wildlife and threatened ecosystems. With the illegal wildlife trade burgeoning, poachers and smugglers are better funded and have more sophisticated weapons. threatening wildlife and rangers alike. An estimated 1,000 rangers have been killed in the last 10 years according to The Thin Green Line Foundation.

No-one at vEcotourism is more familiar with those who protect our natural resources than our ambassador, Ian Redmond:

“In recent months I have worked alongside rangers and wardens in Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, DRC and Tanzania,” explains Ian, “I’ve seen them arrest a poacher, destroy illegal cattle-herders camps, explore unknown forested valleys, and provide friendly security. They even help tourists visiting mountain gorillas and, as they are this week, assist conservationists looking to climb Mount Kilimanjaro!

“So, on World Ranger Day 2014, on our approach to the summit of the world’s highest free-standing mountain and Africa’s highest point, I salute all rangers and wardens for their dedication and courage in protecting our planet’s natural wonders and the ecosystems that sustain us all. They are an inspiration!”

Many of the vEcotours featured on this site would not have been possible without the remarkable efforts of rangers. From the protective gorilla guides in Rwanda to viewing a tree-climbing lion in Uganda, rangers have contributed their efforts in each and every tour. Why not celebrate by taking one or two vEcotours here?

vEcotourism would like to join Ian in saluting these amazing people and all that they give to protect our natural world. Thank you!

From 29 July to 6 April, Ian Redmond is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in aid of various different organisations. You can support him here and make sure you keep an eye out for the world’s very first virtual ecotour of Mount Kilimanjaro!

Jul 14

A home away from home in Lombok, Indonesia

Home away from homeIn our latest vEcotour experience Dr. Helena Baird’s beautiful “home away from home” in Indonesia as she volunteers with vEcotourism’s partner, marine protection organisation JARI

“Volunteering in a developing country is more than just the work itself” Helena explains, “it’s an entirely immersive, challenging and uplifting experience. I have almost been in Indonesia for six months now, so thought I’d give you a taste of my “home away from home” here on Lombok. As you’ll see it’s quite beautiful, but it certainly has its quirks…and it couldn’t be more dissimilar to my home in Tasmania!”

So click on the image above or map below to start your tour.  Find out how Helena is adjusting to living in Indonesia and discover the various residents, human and otherwise, with whom she shares her home.

To find out more about JARI, please visit their website www.jari.or.id and Facebook page www.facebook.com/supportingsustainableseas

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JARI Helena\'s living quarters - Lombok, Indonesia -8.614968, 116.126175 JARI HQ, Lombok, Indonesia Dr. Helena Baird will guide you through her home from home as she volunteers in Indonesia. Click the image to start your vEcotour!

Jun 30

Get ready for the Kwita Izina gorilla naming celebrations in Kinigi, Rwanda with vEcotourism.org

Ian guides you through and access-all-area tour of Kwita Izina 2013

On 1st July 2014 Rwanda will host the tenth annual ‘Kwita Izina’, a gorilla naming ceremony for each born in the Volcanoes National Park during the year! This year, if you are not able to attend, take a guided virtual tour (vEcotour) with primate expert Ian Redmond during last year’s event when he was given an all-access pass to this unique celebration!

“There is so much dismal news in conservation it is wonderful to have something to celebrate! Each year there are a few more mountain gorillas than the year before (the only ape we can say that about) and Rwanda celebrates this success in style at their annual gorilla naming ceremony, the Kwita Izina.” vEcotourism ambassador Ian Redmond explains. Read more and experience the Kwita Izina vEcotour here

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