Visiting animal defenders badly treated, says Marjan Centre

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  November/December 2012:

 LONDON–Pole Pole Foundation founder and former Kahuzi-Biega National Park chief ranger John Kahekwa was to accept the first annual £1,000 MarjanMarsh conservation award on October 29,  2012 from the Marjan Centre for the Study of Conflict and Conservation at King’s College, London,  but Kahekwa never got there.

The award was presented in recognition of Pole Pole’s 20 years of work to promote community involvement in protecting eastern lowland gorillas and other animals who share the gorillas’ habitat near Bukavu in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“For example,  47 of the most active poachers were re-trained as wood-carvers,”  wrote Michael McCarthy of The Independent.  “Five years ago I went to Bukavu and met John.  I thought the work he was doing was exceptional and wrote about it.  But John was not at the awards ceremony,  as he was due to be,  because the British embassy in the DRC capital,  Kinshasa,  lost his fingerprints.  This was despite him travelling the 950 miles from Bukavu to Kinshasa,  and staying there for a week in late July–three months in advance of his journey.  Primatologist Ian Redmond accepted the award on John’s behalf.”

That was scarcely the only such incident the Marjan Centre has recently experienced, recounted Marjan director of external affairs Jaspher Humphries.  The same week,  Humphries said,  he “was due to meet Bibhab Talukdar,  who runs the Aaranyak conservation NGO in Assam, India,”  focused on protecting the endangered Indian rhino.   “He had to cancel our appointment,  having run into a similar visa delay problem.  Since these episodes,”  Humphries continued,  “I have unearthed other examples of this ‘visa virus’ hitting conservation groups,” a problem also experienced by ANIMAL PEOPLE in receiving visits to the U.S. by humane workers from the developing world.  Visakha SPCA founder Pradeep Kumar Nath,  for instance,  was admitted to the U.S. in 2003 only after intercession by two members of Congress.

“Little charities need foreign trips as a fundraising strategy,”  Humphries pointed out. Otherwise,  Humphries warned,  work on behalf of animals “could be limited to a few multinational groups like the World Wildlife Fund,  whose long-standing profile makes them safe in the eyes of”  border authorities.

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