Sanwekwe is under-recognized for his contributions to gorilla research and conservation. He guided Carl Akeley to Mt. Mikeno in the 1920s, tracking the specimens still on exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History. In 1959, he tracked gorillas for George Schaller’s behavioral and census research. Through his expertise, Fossey learned gorilla behavior and tracking. She credits Sanwekwe’s involvement for the success of her first gorilla photographs at Kabara in 1963. He later worked with her at Karisoke.
Gorilla protection once focused on excluding local people like Sanwekwe from parks, but current conservation practice depends on community participation. Local peoples’ involvement in wildlife conservation and tourism fosters community investment in natural resources. This approach is essential, as people are one of the greatest threats to wildlife in Africa.