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Introducing Leonidas: Gorilla Poacher Turned Tracker…

Introducing Leonidas: Gorilla Poacher Turned Tracker…


At last month’s Kwita Izina, It was great pleasure to catch up with Barona Leonidas, a former poacher who has turned out to be a tracker.

Now, if you take a trip to see the mountain gorillas living in the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, you may be lucky enough to have Leonidas as one of your trackers. If so, you’ll see first-hand his passion for these critically-endangered creatures, and be able to benefit from the significant wisdom he is only too eager to share with tourists.

However, this has not always been the case. In fact, up until 2007, Leonidas worked as a gorilla poacher, illegally venturing into the protected national park in order to provide for his family. But then he became one of the beneficiaries of the sensitisation projects run by the Rwanda Development Board in partnership with several conservation groups, including the Gorilla Organization. Through these we teach communities and schools all about gorillas, their plight and what can be done to help them.

Not only did Leonidas come to see that working to protect, rather than harm, gorillas would provide a better future for his seven children, he realised that sustainable conservation can help to transform entire communities across the Virunga Massif.

I’m sure you’ll agree that Leonidas is a truly wonderful man. He is still taking tourists into the Volcanoes National Park and helping with research into the gorillas living there on an almost daily basis, despite now being 68 years old. His passion for gorillas is an inspiration to myself and let’s hope his example can persuade many more poachers to embrace conservation in the years ahead.