Partners In Conservation (PIC)/Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has been partnering with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International since 1991 in many different ways, including support for our mountain gorilla protection activities, community programs, and even helping to build a library/learning and computer center for the local community in Bisate, Rwanda, near Volcanoes National Park.
One of the highlights of PIC’s support is the annual distribution of education materials for the local school in Bisate. Many of the children of the Fossey Fund’s gorilla trackers attend this school, and each year a team from PIC comes to Rwanda to distribute textbooks, notebooks, math sets, pens and other items to the students, as well as teaching materials to the school’s staff. In addition, this year PIC also provided vegetable seeds to the community, during their visit in June.
“Bisate school students, from nursery to secondary school, are grateful for the long-term support from PIC,” says student representative Pacifique. “With PIC’s support, many students have moved on to get good jobs, start businesses and work in conservation. Even the drop-out rate has been significantly reduced,” he says.
Gaetan Nsengiyumva, the Fossey Fund’s finance and administration manager says: “PIC supports students in order to help them contribute to the protection of the environment and Volcanoes National Park. These students will be future leaders, so this is very important.”
PIC manager Jeff Ramsey, who just completed his 19th trip to Bisate this year, says: “We are encouraging all the students and the teachers to continue their studies, to continue to do well, and to pass national exams so they can get jobs at national parks, in local companies, and other important businesses.”
PIC team supports field staff too
The PIC team also visits the Karisoke Research Center each year, where they provide key funding for
Karisoke programs, including salary support for trackers, field equipment and even scholarships for field staff to attend university. Field staff look forward each year to this visit, where PIC also distributes practical items as gifts to the field staff, and gets an update on the Fossey Fund’s work and the gorilla groups we protect. This year PIC also presented seeds for cabbages, onions, beans, tomatoes and other vegetables to the trackers.
The relationship between PIC and Karisoke was solidified in 1992, when former PIC Director Charlene Jendry, who was a gorilla keeper at the Columbus Zoo, came to Rwanda, and has remained strong ever since, says Ramsey.
“Our partnerships with PIC is very special because it has connected people from different countries over many years. It’s not only tangible support for the community and our staff, but a strong affection for all of us, our work and our futures,” says Felix Ndagijimana, the Fossey Fund’s director of Karisoke and Rwanda programs.
Submitted by Cedric Ujeneza, Karisoke Research Center