The boardmembers of the Dutch Gorilla Foundation:
A geologist trying to save gorillas? Normally you don’t associate a geologist with nature conservation. But actually it was my scientific training and research that gave me the insight that everything on earth is interconnected. Natural systems are very complex, and if you want to understand these systems you need to consider all the physical and biological aspects of their intertwined processes.
Many years ago I volunteered with the Jane Goodall Institute. What attracted me was that same holistic vision that I had learned about in my studies. A vision that people, animals and nature (earth) all are interconnected. It is a vision that is now shared by many more conservation organizations.
Despite the privilege of working many years as a volunteer and later as a country director for the Jane Goodall Institute, there always was a dormant love for the gorillas. And at one point I had to give in … Starting a new organization to protect gorillas and their habitat according to this same holistic vision was a dream come true.
My mother spent her early childhood in Congo. She liked to show me photographs and tell me stories of climbing trees, swimming rivers in the midst of “African Piranhas” (Goliath Tigerfish), and of visiting her friends at the local African tribes. Because of her stories, Africa became a wonderful place full of childhood adventures! And even though I had never been to Africa myself, it felt like a second home.
Later on in life I developed an interest in human and animal behavior. When I became aware of the similarities between people and great apes I wanted to learn more about these animals. The opportunity came when I started to work for the Jane Goodall Institute. In close cooperation with several primatologists, I learned a lot about chimpanzees and gorillas. I even got to visit my beloved Africa!
Unfortunately the place of my mother’s childhood adventures is in serious distress. Habitat is lost for the great apes in Africa and there are other threats for animals and humans alike. I can’t help but feel that I have to do something. For me personally, the gorilla is the embodiment of the stories about Africa from my youth. I think they’re wonderful! And I wish for everyone to have a place full of adventures, inhabited by those magnificent animals in harmony with the people who live there. Together we can make sure that it stays that way!
I have loved animals since I was a little girl. I loved the guinea pigs and dogs we had at home as pets and all the different animals I saw on TV. That TV screen introduced me to all the beautiful and amazing animals from “far, far away”. Flamingos, elephants, gorillas… The love for animals grew stronger as I got older. But through the years I also came to realize that the animals in the wild were not doing so well. Species are even disappearing from our planet… Yesterday, today and tomorrow.
I felt I needed to do something and come into action to protect the animals that are left on our beautiful planet. That is when I came into contact with Diederik and Saskia. We share a passion for nature and animals. We also have the same vision of what would be the ideal future for animals that are on the brink of extinction today. What this vision is? That animals can live freely in their natural habitat undisturbed by mankind. This is the fundament of the Dutch Gorilla Foundation. A foundation with a big heart and a huge drive! I am very proud to be able to contribute to the conservation of the different gorilla species. Gorillas are impressive, giant animals but at the same time this species is so kindhearted and vulnerable. We have to come into action now to make sure that gorillas have a safe future on our planet. Now! And we cannot do that without your support.
Photo credit: © Yolande Ligterink