Gorillas are one of the most endangered animals on earth. There are less than 900 mountain gorillas and only around 2-3,000 eastern lowland gorillas alive today. They live in pockets of forestry in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and were made famous by Dian Fossey’s work in the region to protect them.
While many people know about these animals, few understand the threats they are facing and how they can be resolved.
The major threats facing the gorillas come from the communities living around them. These communities live in poverty and depend on the forest for their survival. They cut down trees for charcoal to boil water and cook food, and lay traps for bushmeat, which the gorillas sometimes get caught in.
These people do not mean to harm the gorillas, but they have little choice because they are so poor. These communities are victims of poverty, and the gorillas become victims of the consequences of their poverty.
Gorilla conservation charities, such as the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, the Gorilla Organisation and the Pole Pole Foundation, are working with communities to lift them out of poverty and protect the gorillas.
By providing ex-poachers with new livelihoods, these poachers are turning into protectors. And the governments of the three countries re-invest some of the money gained from gorilla tourism back into the communities; building schools, water tanks and supporting other community programmes.
This is helping to address the threats faced by the gorillas and to alleviate the poverty of communities, but more needs to be done. Charities rely on donations, which are hard to come by, and there are thousands of people living around the gorillas that need help.
At the same time, consumers around the world who love gorillas and want to protect them have few ways to do so; donating to charity or going on an expensive holiday to see the gorillas (the permit alone costs $750).
More money is required, but it is unlikely to come from charitable donations or tourism, which are largely fixed in value each year. So some way of empowering consumers to use their day-to-day purchases to protect gorillas – like the Fairtrade scheme has helped consumers support poverty alleviation – is required for gorillas and wildlife in general.
That’s why we’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign – Tunza Gorilla (Tunza means ‘care for’ in Swahili), our ethical and sustainable fashion brand with a mission to work with communities to protect gorillas. We’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign to establish our brand and prove demand, and we’re donating 50% of profits to gorilla conservation charities. Our long-term mission is to employ people living around the gorillas to make our clothes – providing the jobs needed to end poaching, lift people out of poverty and protect the gorillas.
We believe that only by creating everyday products, such as clothing, which protect wildlife will we be able to mobilise the funds needed to protect wildlife around the world.
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We are Tunza gorilla, an ethical fashion company, and we’ve launched a campaign to work with communities to protect one of the most endangered animals on earth – gorillas. Through using everyday, conventional clothes, we want to work with consumers to use the clothes they wear each day to protect gorillas in a simple yet innovative way.
Through launching a crowdfunding campaign, we want to demonstrate the popularity and sustainability of the idea and the brand before looking to grow our company and work more closely with communities surrounding these endangered animals. The long-term goal being to directly employ members of the community to make the clothes and allow for every penny spent to go to protecting gorillas. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FK-HRCNLV-k&feature=youtu.be].
With all conservation challenges around the world, the key is raising enough money for conservation work and demonstrating to communities and governments the benefits of conservation. Tunza Gorilla provides a mechanism to do that; using everyday spending rather than charitable donations to generate revenue and jobs for communities and governments that protect wildlife. This will lift communities out of poverty in a way that is not only sustainable, but which actively protects the environment and wildlife. Instead of sustainable development, we call it Ecological Development; using conservation to lift people out of poverty.
Our mantra is “Think Big. Start Small. Act Now.” Before we employ communities, we need to establish our brand and prove demand. We can then mobilise investment to start employing communities and offer a business solution to gorilla conservation. At present we are donating 50% of the profits to two gorilla conservation charities – the Gorilla Organisation and the Pole Pole Foundation UK – and reinvesting the remainder into the company to help growth.
We are working to protect the mountain gorillas and eastern lowland gorillas. There are less than 900 mountain gorillas and only around 2-3,000 eastern lowland gorillas left in the wild today. Tunza Gorilla will initially provide valuable funds to support conservation activities to protect these gorillas through our charitable donations; supporting community projects to restore the forest and reduce poaching.
Our longer term impact will be even more far-reaching. By employing people living around the gorillas, we will lift them out of poverty and support economic development of these communities. Development often causes environmental harm, but our work is tied closely to conservation, ensuring human economic development protects rather than harms the environment.
We’re also working to bring more everyday goods to market that protect wildlife, empowering consumers who love wildlife to use their everyday purchases to protect them, rather than relying solely on charity. This will help fill the funding gap faced by conservation organisations, and contribute to the worldwide push towards sustainability and environmental protection within business.
We’re starting small to establish our brand and prove demand. By initially selling via e-commerce we can keep our overheads low and reach out to a wide customer base.
And as a social enterprise rather than a charity, we are for-profit, enabling us to invest back into our company to help us grow, and use the profits we make to achieve our purpose of working with communities to protect gorillas.
With awareness increasing all the time about the harms of fast-fashion and consumers looking for ethical alternatives, the market for our products is growing. We offer our customers style, comfort and piece of mind. And we do so at prices that are affordable; our range starts from only £12.
We want as many people as possible to be able to buy ethical and sustainable fashion which makes a better world. By keeping overheads low and quality high, and having a strong, positive ethical mission, we’re working to help make ethical fashion the new-normal.
By Richard Milburn, Founder of Tunza Gorilla.