ABOUT PARTNERS IN CONSERVATION
Partners In Conservation (PIC) was founded in 1991 at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium by gorilla keeper, Charlene Jendry, and docents Judy Hoffman Bolton, Barb DeLorme, and Jeff Ramsey. PIC collaborates with its partners in Central Africa who know solutions to their conservation challenges, but sometimes just need a small amount of money to convert their ideas to action. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium funds PIC’s annual operating budget which makes it possible for all money raised by PIC to equally benefit both people and wildlife in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Two of the major environmental concerns in Central Africa are the bush meat trade and deforestation, especially where gorillas and other great ape species are concerned. Poverty and a lack of jobs paying a liveable wage are also endemic to these areas. These seemingly distantly connected problems intersect and feed off of one another in a vicious cycle; often many of the most lucrative “jobs” involve illegal hunting and/or deforestation and the resulting environmental degradation reduces the opportunities for families to escape from poverty.
While many conservation programs come from the perspective of saving endangered animals and habitats first, PIC approaches conservation in these areas holistically, educating local people about the importance of conservation and giving them alternative means to earn wages that are conservation-friendly. PIC’s fundamental belief is that by helping local populations to better their lives and thrive without poaching or deforestation, these people then are empowered to conserve their wild places. By collaborating with conservation partners who provide local populations with education, skills, and liveable-wage jobs, PIC is able to help indigenous people become directly invested in saving their environment, which in turn, helps to conserve gorillas and other vulnerable wildlife in this area of the world.
If conservation initiatives include asking range country people not to hunt or place bee hives or remove wood from the rain forest PIC believes that it is imperative for people to be offered economic alternatives. Rwandans and Congolese…that we partner with understand the importance of the rainforest but if they have to make a choice between caring for their families or the forest they will chose their families. One of the ways PIC is economically assisting local people and helping preserve the rainforest (and the wildlife that lives there) is by funding community development projects in collaboration with conservation partners that offer people viable alternatives so they don’t have to depend on forest resources.