Community Conservation Education in Africa
When people who live near gorillas learn the value of gorillas and their habitat, they join in protecting, rather than threatening, the gorillas.
Although we also provide programs within schools, the Fossey Fund’s education programs reach beyond students to all members of the communities where we work, promoting behaviors that reduce the threat of disease transmission, encouraging people to cooperate with anti-poaching efforts, and motivating people to accept alternatives to resources found in the forest. Both in Rwanda and the Congo, the gorillas’ human neighbors are becoming important ambassadors for gorilla conservation.
Health education in Rwanda and Congo
As part of our Ecosystem Health program, we provide health and hygiene education programs to local communities in collaboration with local authorities, along with testing and treatment programs for intestinal parasite infection and other medical assistance.
The communities targeted for parasite eradication are given hygiene and conservation education seminars to aid in preventing re-infestation. We provide large metallic posters that demonstrate prevention methods, DVDs showing intestinal parasites, and evening films about hygiene and health. Our message is: “You are part of your environment. Let's work together toward achieving a healthy environment for people and endangered species.” Other health education activities include training community people to maintain their clean water systems and training local lab technicians. Clean water access in the communities removes the need to enter gorilla habitat in search of water.
Conservation education in Rwanda
In recent years the Conservation Education division of the Karisoke™ Research Center, in collaboration with the Community Conservation Department of Volcanoes National Park, has initiated an annual gorilla trekking event for local leaders from areas near the park, followed by a dialogue on conservation issues. The aim is to gain the good will of as many people around the park as possible toward gorillas. Groups of older children from the Imbabazi Orphanage have also been treated to gorilla visits.
The Bisate School, located near the park, also serves as a communications hub for Karisoke, which supports the school in many ways. Whenever Karisoke sponsors a public event at the school, such as distribution of donated books and supplies, staff take the opportunity to explain the importance of the gorillas and their habitat to the community.
Karisoke staff conduct a Youth Action for the Environment (YAE) program that is reviving formerly inactive environment clubs in six secondary schools. Based on a model developed by Dr. Jane Goodall, the program seeks to ignite the children’s curiosity and provide them with information that will awaken their concern for nature and lead them to take action to conserve the environment. One teacher and one student from each school attend a leadership workshop, and then encourage other students to research local environmental problems and plan and implement solutions. The clubs report to the Fossey Fund on their activities, which are showcased at a public event later in the year.
Conservation education in the Congo
The Tayna Center for Conservation Biology, which offers college degrees to students from communities that have donated land for a network of community-run nature reserves, serves as a resource for non-students as well. The students operate a radio station that provides conservation education, local news, and other information to some 300,000 people in the surrounding area – the only broadcast signal available to most. The Fossey Fund provided financial support and technical assistance to help establish TCCB.
The Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) center that prepares gorillas rescued from poachers to return to the wild, on land donated by TCCB, works with TCCB students to produce a popular radio drama providing health and conservation messages. The GRACE staff also provides interactive conservation education workshops to local schools, churches, women's associations and agricultural organizations.