Congo Field Staff Spotlight: Glenn Raynor
Written By: Anna Muir, JGI Canada Volunteer
Category: From The Field
Growing up in the bush on Canada’s west coast, Glenn Raynor spent much of his boyhood immersed in the natural world—tracking baby bears through the lush forest and watching orcas migrate in spring. Today, Glenn is the executive director of the Jane Goodall Institute’s office in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but his love and respect for wildlife can be traced back to his days roaming British Columbia’s wilderness.
Glenn’s work in the DRC is fundamental to the protection of chimpanzees in the region, which is intimately connected to the health of the communities that border the forests where wildlife live. In many villages, high levels of infant and maternal death are a major issue. In response, Glenn and his staff are executing the Delivering Healthy Futures project that is helping reduce maternal and infant mortality rates in 20 communities throughout North Kivu and Maniema provinces in the eastern DRC. Strengthening local health systems and providing training in family planning is contributing to the conservation of a critical biodiversity hot spot that is paramount to the survival of chimpanzees. While this might sound like a straightforward concept ripe for execution, the DRC is fraught with a unique set of challenges.
“The Congo is the most complex and most critical country to work in in Africa,” says Glenn. “You have to get the formula right.” What Glenn observed in the field was troubling. National parks were getting little support. Deforestation, habitat loss and poaching threatened populations of great apes at alarming rates. And the rangers who risk their lives every day to protect the wildlife are paid next to nothing.
Park rangers on anti-poaching patrol in Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Photo: A.J Plumptrewcs
In an effort to address some of these issues and protect important regions for wildlife and habitat, JGI’s programming in the Congo is based on community-centered conservation. This means building local capacity and creating programs that are controlled and embraced by the local people. Glenn emphasizes that communities need to be engaged as full partners to achieve conservation goals. “Unless you can engage people—stewards of the last remaining wilderness areas—no conservation scheme will work,” says Glenn.
“Unless you can engage people—stewards of the last remaining wilderness areas—no conservation scheme will work”
Though he is still relatively new to the job, Glenn is looking to the future. His long-term vision is a JGI-funded, Congolese-run office in the DRC that will be a catalyst for achieving ambitious conservation objectives. “The Congo is one of the most difficult places to work but if we can do this, we will set the gold standard,” says Glenn. “We are small but mighty because we work with the Congolese and international partners.” Glenn hopes that part of the transformation will be led by youth through Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots program. Promoting a greater awareness of the challenges faced by people and animals and mobilizing support for youth-led campaigns will help accomplish the revitalization of national parks.
The Delivering Healthy Futures project and other vital programming in the DRC would not be possible without Glenn, his dedicated staff and volunteers—working on the ground and learning how best to support communities with regards to sustainability, health and conservation, in a highly complex and volatile area.
Program undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.
Projet réalisé avec l’appui financier du gouvernement du Canada agissant par l’entremise d’Affaires mondiales Canada.