Congo by Camera

Hugo Warner en route to Watsi Kengo

When you enter the pristine rainforest of the Salonga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), you feel like you’re entering someone else’s home. “The rainforest is initially very foreboding and disorienting,” says amateur photographer Hugo Warner. As an international development consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers, Warner, 35, a British national, lives and works between London and Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC. During a vacation in April 2012, Warner took his camera to Etate in a remote area of the Salonga. Etate is the research station for the Zoological Society of Milwaukee’s (ZSM’s) award-winning conservation program—the Bonobo & Congo Biodiversity Initiative. “I found out about Etate quite by chance,” he says. “A zookeeper at the Lola ya Bonobo ape sanctuary in Kinshasa referred me to ‘Madame Gay’ Reinartz, with whom I struck up a correspondence at the end of 2011.” Dr. Reinartz is the director of BCBI. “On Gay’s advice I took the ‘scenic’ route,” he says. That included a flight from Kinshasa to a small town called Boende, followed by a grueling, 70-mile motorcycle trek to a village called Watsi Kengo. There Warner joined Dr. Reinartz, Patrick Guislain (BCBI field projects coordinator), and other members of the BCBI team. “They took their motorized pirogue for the three-hour home stretch on the meandering Salonga River. We arrived just after nightfall.”

Warner documented his adventure in photos. Here are some images from his trip into one of the world’s remotest places. The full story and other photos can be found in the Zoological Society of Milwaukee's January 2014 issue of Alive magazine.

Text by Zak Mazur