Eight years ago, the Ebo Forest Research Project was launched by scientists from Cameroon and the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Its overarching goal is to protect the Ebo forest, a 1,500 square kilometer (580 square miles) area in the Congo Basin, and its inhabitants, which include rare primates like chimpanzees and gorillas that are in high demand by poachers.
To accomplish this, the Ebo Forest Research Project started the Gorilla Guardian Club in three local communities, a club that allows villagers to participate in monitoring the forest. Many of the villagers, like Jean Titil, used to make their living as poachers and are now heavily involved in the conservatorship of these endangered primates. Now, Titil sets up camera traps instead of actual traps and uses his tracking skills to collect data on and help monitor primate populations. So far, 17 cameras have been set up throughout the forest in spaces where primates are living.
Any villager who wants to participate must join a Gorilla Guardian Club, and they are paid for their work which allows them to leave poaching in the past. Other villagers who are not collecting data in the forest can still join the club. Instead of earning a living through poaching, once the villagers join the club, they receive training on animal husbandry and agriculture. Poachers turned farmers live a more stable life, because hunting is not actually very lucrative, and the income is unpredictable. Now, those who have chosen to join the club and learn how to work the land are able to enjoy regular hours and a steady income.
Local teachers in the villages are also trained by scientists to teach the youngest members of the community to protect the rainforest and its wildlife, hoping that instilling in them an understanding of nature and how to live in harmony with it will lead to a future where poaching and hunting are no longer thought of as viable careers.