“Always associated with animals,” says Amandine Renaud about her fight for the protection of monkeys in the Congo

“I have always been associated with animals and nature. As a kid, I used to cry when I saw trees being felled. Born in Décines and raised in Meyzieu (Rhône), Amandine Renaud did not last long in wanting to revolve around environmental protection. “Driven” by detecting Gorillas in the foga film retelling the story of American primatologist Dian Fossey, the young woman therefore dared to take the plunge at the age of 22 by volunteering to accompany a mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with great apes.

“For many things I am of a timid nature,” Amandine Renaud urges. But there I became dark because I wanted to see if I was really created for this life. And I had clicked during this trip in 2003. “After believing for a long time that only veterinary studies could allow her to” meet wild animals “, Rhodanienne joined a specific master’s degree in research in London in 2008, in order to to become a primatologist.

“Authorities believe chimpanzees have disappeared”

With this diploma in her pocket, she created the association P-WAC (Project for Wildlife and Apes Conservation) in Décines in 2013 with the ambition of building her own center for the conservation of biodiversity and great apes. She then settled permanently in the DRC in 2015. She hosted the province of Congo Central, in the southwestern part of the country, and faced two years of administrative proceedings to convince the Congolese authorities to allow the French association to “protect ancestors. forests for future generations ”.

P-WAC, which today has five active volunteers plus 18 people working daily in the DRC, is gradually buying up 200 hectares of land in the Mayombe forest while opening a care center for monkeys. The effects are already striking, says Amandine Renaud, who is now aiming for 2,000 ha.

“In 2015, the botanical study of the forest we were going to buy talked about inanimate trees, about a place where man had plundered everything. Only a year after banning humans from accessing this forest, we crossed antelopes, and we saw thanks to video footage of chimpanzees and mangoes returning to the site. Today, a group of five wild chimpanzees have returned thanks to this protection of the forest. It is very promising because the authorities thought they had completely disappeared from the region. »

A monkey rescued after smoking and drinking beer in a private home

At the same time, Amandine Renaud takes care of a rehabilitation enclosure, the purpose of which is to protect young orphaned primates that are victims of poaching, to move them to the forest within a protected area. She is currently caring for about twenty monkeys who were seized by the Congolese state and handed over to the P-WAC, some of whom have been treated particularly badly.

Elonga is one of the monkeys that P-WAK collected in the DRC.
Elonga is one of the monkeys that P-WAK collected in the DRC. – @pwac_primates

“We gathered Mayélé, who was detained by a person in Kinshasa,” she says. Things are better today, but he had some complicated months. “

“I do not spend my days petting monkeys”

Although the 40-year-old primatologist now lives about a ten-hour drive from the DRC capital Kinshasa, she regularly returns to the Lyon region to “inform schools about deforestation and monkey conditions”. “I saw 6-year-olds start a demonstration in their schoolyard to fight palm oil and to save forests,” she smiles. The students of the elementary school Les Calabres in Meyzieu even raised 1,200 euros by mobilizing. »

Contacted by publisher Michel Lafon, Amandine Renaud published the “militant” book on 25 May My fight for the big monkeys, initiated by actor Maurice Barthélémy. “It allows me to clarify that I don’t spend my days petting monkeys,” she laughs. I return to the whole course of the association and the difficulties I encountered when I settled in the Congo, where I was a little lost at first. Seven years later, the actions of P-WAC are recognized by many large foundations such as the 30 Million d’amis and Brigitte-Bardot Foundation.

The book “My Fight for the Great Monkeys” (Michel Lafon editions) is for sale here. More info on P-WAC’s website hereas well as on the accounts Instagram and Facebook from the association.

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