The POLE POLE FOUNDATION INTERNATIONAL “POPOF-I” is a Non Governmental Organization created by natives and workers in and around the Kahuzi-Biega National Park. 'Pole pole' is a Kiswahili word meaning 'slowly'. It's our wish to go rather slowly and steadily than hastily toward the achievement of our ultimate goals: We act for the long-term conservation of the KBNP and the sustainable development of the local communities.
The POPOF-I was officially registered since September 24th, 1992 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). [Charity No. Just112/S-Kv/06/1997]
We are a partner of the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) - Category E
- Bathélemy Wenga Mulindwa, Chief of Departments
- Philemon Munguyene, Chief of the Department of Gender, Family and Children
- Christian Amani ya Igugu, PhD., Chief of the Department of Environmental Education
- Augustin K. Basabose, PhD., Chief of the Department of Scientific Research
- Patrick Muligano, Chief of the Department of Community Conservation
- John Kahekwa, Chief of the Department of Ecotourism
Members of honor and Advisor:
- Juichi Yamagiwa, Ph.D., Kyoto University, Japan
- Augustin Kanyunyi Basabose, Ph.D., Primatologist, DRC
- Chisato Abe, artist, Japan
- Charlene Jendry, Partners In Conservation, USA
- Rick Murphy, conservationist, USA
- Richard Milburn, UK
- -Kindergarten & primary school:
- Byakesho Mizinzi Marie Claire, School Directress
- and 9 teachers,2 sentries and 1 usher
- -Secondary school
- Valentin Nyaluhaze, Headmaster
- and 11 teachers, 2 ushers and 2 guards
- 1 usher, 1 guard
Partner in Web-Public Relations:
Partners around the KBNP:
- The Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN)
- The Pole Pole Foundation International Japan
- The Pole Pole Foundation International United Kingdom
- Partners In Conservation
- The Gorilla Organization
- The Born Free Foundation
- The Berggorilla Regenwald and Direkthilfe
- Apenheul Primate Park
- John Kahekwa, General Manager and Founder
Conservationist and the Kahuzi Biega National Park's chief gorilla tracker in 1983-2003. He was born in 1963 in Miti village near the KBNP headquarters office. His aunt was the wife of Adrien Deschryver, the co-founder and the first warden of the KBNP. At the age of ten, John watched a film of the Kahuzi-Biega gorillas and dreamed to work for the Park in the field. In 1983 after the secondary school he was employed by the park as a gorilla tracker and started to follow two groups of gorillas every day and identified them by recording nose print of each gorilla.
He observed the natural life of gorillas in the wild; reproduction, newborn babies, development in the society, social interactions and death. He also saw the impacts of human pressures on the natural resources from the local communities around the KBNP. He then started to find out a sustainable solution that could contribute to the protection of the natural resources of the park and to the alleviation of the socio-economic crisis impacting the local communities.
In 1986, a tourist gave him US$10.- tip after a gorilla visit. He immediately went to Bukavu town and bought 10 plain T-shirts. He printed gorilla faces on its front and wrote, "I tracked gorillas in Zaire" and sold them to the tourists. In 1987, this T-shirt business increased because a part of the famous film ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ was filmed in the KBNP. He played a small part in the film, too. The money he saved from the T-shirts business was the starting fund for the establishment of the Pole Pole Foundation International in 1992.
- Barthélemy (Bathy) Wenga Mulindwa, Chief of Departments
He has a master’s degree in HIV/AIDS management at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. He is in charge of managing strategic implementations of HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives in the rural communities surrounding the sub-species, the Eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) in the Kahuzi Biega National Park, Maiko National Parks, Itombwe Natural Reserve, Tayna, Walikale and Kasese forests.
- Juichi Yamagiwa, Ph.D., Japan representative, Member of honor and Advisor
President of Kyoto University, Japan. Primatologist and professor at the Laboratory of Human Evolution Studies, Graduate School of Science since October 2014. The President of International Primatological Society in 2009. He first came to the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in 1978 to prepare his thesis in primatology. He became very familiar with the park staff, especially the guides and the trackers. He and John met in 1983 and tracked the gorillas together. Both identified gorilla members and recognized over 155 individuals and have published several scientific papers as co-authors.
He joined the POPOF-I as member of honor since 1993. He is the representative member of the POPOF-I Japan.
- Augustin Kanyunyi Basabose, Ph.D., Member of honor and Advisor
Dr. Augustin K. Basabose, from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has played a leading role in the conservation of great apes in Central Africa for more than 20 years. He graduated with a PhD degree in Zoology from Kyoto University, Japan, after completing a thesis in 2005 on chimpanzee ecology in the montane forests of Kahuzi-Biega National Park, DRC.
He was the Country Representative of International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP) in DRC since 2006 to 2012 and became the Interim Director of IGCP from April until December 2012. Dr. Augustin participated as team leader to a number of Biodiversity Survey on small and large mammals in the Albertine Rift Region, including several Gorilla censuses in Kahuzi-Biega National Park (in 1996 and 2000), Virunga Volcanoe Range (in 2010) and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (in 2006 and 2011).
Dr. Augustin is an active member of the Executive Committee of the Great Apes Section of the IUCN primate specialist group since 2005. He is a life time member of the International Primatological Society and is a member of the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Primatology since 2011. He is an international collaborator of the Leading Graduate Program in Primatology and Wildlife Science in Kyoto University. Dr. Augustin teaches Primatology-related courses at a number of universities in eastern DRC. He is a member of the PolePole Foundation-International (PoPoF-I) since 1995.
- Byakesho Mizinzi Marie Claire, School Directress of the kindergarten & primary school
At the time she graduated the secondary school, she already had to feed her children. As it was impossible for her to find any job at that time, she had no choice but illegally collecting woods in the park to sell them in the village. But having found her sincere personality John invited her to work at its kindergarten and primary school in 1999. Since then she worked actively and gained the respect of the students and the other staff. In 2007 she was finally promoted to be the school directress. She also got a local scholarship and she is now studying rural development.
- Valentin Nyaluhaze, Headmaster of the secondary school
He is a teacher of more than three decades of experience. He was engaged in the secondary school of the POPOF-I since 2004. The first promotion of our pupils in the secondary agro-forestry school succeeded by 100% in the state exams thanks to the efforts and good skill of Nyaluhaze and his co-workers.
- Richard Milburn, UK representative, Member of honor and Advisor
He was born and brought up in London, UK. Having traveled and volunteered in teaching and conservation activities in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, he studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of York, UK.
He met John in April of 2011 while on a work placement with the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, researching conservation in conflict and post conflict environments as part of his Masters in Post War Recovery, also at the University of York. He was so impressed with the work being done, that he wanted to help POPOF-I and so took up the offer of becoming POPOF-I's UK representative.
- Kawabe Tomohiro, Partner in Web-Public Relations
A TV production coordinator and translator at AdvanBridge Inc., Japan. He lived in East Africa for eight years and he met John in 1997 during his first visit to the Kahuzi-Biega National Park for a documentary-filming. Since then he has arranged for several documentary filming projects in the KBNP in cooperation with the POPOF-I.