Success in conservation depends on how ready people are to do conservation work, conservation cannot be left to conservation organizations or “Conservationists” conservation is far more than just about wildlife. We need everyone on board, when it comes to animal rights it it is better to be outspoken than unspoken.

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Community Engagement in Environmental conservation, Lessons from Rwanda

Meet Edwin Sabuhoro PHD, a Rwandese national and an unsung wildlife warrior. He received his law degree from the National University of Rwanda and a MSc. Conservation and Tourism from University of Kent at Canterbury, UK where he specialized in ecotourism management. He worked in all Rwanda’s National Parks but mostly as a Tourism Park Warden for Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

Beyond that, Edwin worked as a Senior Economic Development Advisor for SNV (a Dutch development organization), Chairman of Tour Operators and Travel Agents Association in Rwanda, President of Rwanda Chamber of Tourism, a private sector umbrella organization for Rwanda’s tourism and hospitality sector, Chief Executive Officer for Rwanda Eco-Tours and has also lectured at different Universities in Rwanda in fields of environment, ecotourism, biodiversity conservation and sustainable tourism development.

His work to develop ecotourism and to set up a community-based ecotourism project for local communities and ex-poachers at Volcanoes National Park has helped in the reduction of poaching in the park. His work was recognized through; Rwandan Prime Minister’s award of excellence in 2004, Eco-club project of the year 2007, Royal Belum inaugural award in Malaysia in 2007 and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Young Conservationist of the year 2008 Award.

He represents young conservation professionals for East, West and Central Africa at IUCN World Commission for Protected Areas. He also represented Rwanda to the President Obama Young African Leaders Forum in Washington, USA and has continued to participate and speak in different forums that highlight youth empowerment, biodiversity and environment, sustainability and community development, democracy, and leadership.

I got the privilege to hear him talk about his success story during the recent Africa Animal Welfare conference and was inspired beyond any reasonable doubt. How I wish other African countries could emulate their model globally. Environmental conservation has been a challenge due to increased pressure on natural resources brought about by an increase in the human population and uncontrolled harvesting on natural resources.

He explained clearly how the pressure for environmental resources is attributed to the inability of communities to support their household livelihoods. Secondly, in this struggle to protect and conserve these resources, conservationists and scientists alike have forgotten to involve and include local communities as a key decision maker. As a result, local communities have remained as ” the forgotten” in the environmental conservation equation. Conservation will not succeed without putting the local communities back to their central position in the conservation of their resources.

Through his work he has proved, that communitie are the custodians of these resources and they have to be engaged and involved in the planning and management of these resources. To address these challenges, local communities have to be directly engaged and involved in the business of environmental conservation. By doing so, communities would be less detrimental to these resources, find alternatives that would lead to their improved livelihoods, and contribute more to the protection and conservation of the environment.

“We have the choice to use the gift of our life to make the world a better place or not to bother” Jane Goodall may we take this inspiring success story as a personal challenge, sit down with community groups and take notes from them because they have all the solutions. Let’s bring in Eco-tourism to strike a win-win balance between conservationists and local communities.

 

 

If a Gorilla safari is top on your bucket list like myself get in touch with Rwanda Eco tours for a journey that benefits the communities. http://www.rwandaecotours.com/index.php/

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INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE VS FORMAL EDUCATION IN REGARDS TO CONSERVATION

Indigenous or local knowledge refers to a complete body of knowledge, know-how and practices maintained and developed by peoples, generally in rural areas, who have extended histories of interaction with the natural environment. These sets of understandings, interpretations and meanings are part of a cultural complex that encompasses language, naming and classification systems, practices for using resources, ritual, spirituality and worldview. It provides the basis for local-level decision-making about many fundamental aspects of day to day life: for example hunting, fishing, gathering, agriculture and husbandry; food production; water; health; and adaptation to environmental or social change. Non-formal knowledge in contrast to formal knowledge is handed over orally, from generation to generation, and is therefore seldom documented.

 It is the dynamic way in which the residents of an area have come to understand themselves in relationship to their environment and how they organize their folk knowledge of flora and fauna, cultural beliefs, and history to enhance their lives The indigenous peoples of Kenya live in areas that are rich in biodiversity. The knowledge of indigenous peoples is often enshrined in rituals, ceremonies and magic, thus underlining how culture, language, religion, psychology and spiritual beliefs cannot often be separated from their understanding of the natural world. This knowledge has passed through generations and assures the survival of the forest environment, its component parts, and the people and cultures dependent upon it and the ecosystem as a whole.

Despite all these positive advantages of indigenous technical knowledge advantages, there are some which are major setbacks to biodiversity conservation, as portrayed through various Kenyan cultures and cultural practices through totems, superstitions, and myths. Some practices promote the killing of wildlife species thus formal knowledge in biodiversity conservation is essential and critical in suitability in that formal education in biodiversity conservation promotes sound cultural practices.

The Kenya government’s efforts to incorporate indigenous knowledge into the formal education curriculum in the post-colonial era has partly been aimed at confronting power, authority, and prestige of western knowledge which subordinates indigenous forms of knowledge in formal schooling. This approach is one of the ways in which the government has tried to empower its citizens to take control of their own development.

 Incorporating indigenous knowledge in formal education signifies the recognition of the power of the role of both the individual and collective agency of change that is found in the potential of using multiple forms of knowledge in solving current problems inflicting Kenyan communities. The pluralistic approach to knowledge systems requires that different forms of knowledge and methods be authenticated and embraced in the school system and that no one system is used as a benchmark for other knowledge forms. Yet the integration takes place in the school environment that already privileges western epistemologies against indigenous epistemologies, a condition that continues to create hegemony in Kenya’s school knowledge construction. This has often created contradictions between what is intended by the curriculum reforms and what is actually implemented in classrooms, resulting in incongruence between students’ indigenous experiential knowledge and formal school knowledge. 

Therefore, attempts to indigenize the curriculum in Kenya have met with little success and have been implemented superficially. The expansion of western formal education created a situation where traditional education in colonized societies was portrayed by colonial powers as ineffective in managing biodiversity, lives and welfare of colonized peoples and communities.

Teachers’ attitudes toward and beliefs about the value and potential contribution of indigenous knowledge to sustainable development define how they integrate this form of knowledge into the formal school curriculum.

 Some of the challenges in the integration of indigenous knowledge in formal education arise from teachers’ lack of faith that such a curriculum can actually contribute significantly to addressing the socio-economic needs of the country. Teachers’ inability to integrate indigenous knowledge in their practice may also be resulting from limited knowledge on what aspects to integrate. Although teachers are entrusted with the responsibility of fostering indigenous knowledge in the learning institutions of Kenya, there is no guidance on what aspects of culture are to be integrated into the curricula.

Although some indigenous knowledge is lost naturally as practices get modified or are left unused for long time periods, the current rate of loss can be attributed to modernization and cultural homogenization. The current educational systems that believe macro-level problems can only be addressed through the global knowledge pool and the slow growth of institution supporting grassroots innovations are also obstacles therefore to avoid more cultural erosion its essential for indigenous knowledge to be integrated into formal education curricula.

Kenya has sound existing research and academic institutions that could potentially play a vital role in promoting, recognizing, developing and protecting indigenous knowledge as well as incorporating it successively with formal education systems within its curriculum. This would water down to the grassroots level, ultimately leading to economic benefits.

Indigenous peoples and local communities have much to contribute to global discussions concerning sustainability and have a right to participate in matters that may affect them. As proponents and practitioners of both biological and cultural diversity and biocultural diversity, indigenous peoples and local communities have unique insights into possible solutions that can promote biodiversity conservation both locally and globally.

FRIENDS OF NAIROBI NATIONAL PARK (FONNAP-KEEPING VIGILANCE IN THE PARK)

Park rules are intended to ensure that visitors enjoy a superior safari experience without endangering themselves or the wildlife. Please respect the rules

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” Martin Luther King JR. The Nairobi National Park is the only park in the world adjacent to a capital city, this has its ups and downs which we are all familiar to including the standard Gauge Railway that in my opinion had so many alternative routes other than through the park, But there’s one behavior of Nairobians that I really has to be addressed alighting from the vehicles while on a game drive and sitting on top of the vehicle.

The minute you pay to enter the park you’re given a receipt and attached to it is a copy of the park rules and regulations which some people tend to overlook and only oblige when the Kenya Wildlife Service Patrols are around forgetting that they are in the wild and nothing is predictable.

I have been a member of Friends of Nairobi National Park (FONNAP)  for years and the commitment of the members who are mostly citizens who are passionate about conservation and protecting the park phenomenal, I joined this What’s App group of  FONNAP members who frequent the park and we share pictures that we take in the park and acts as an open forum to discuss any issues of concern but lately the increased numbers of visitors to the park misbehaving has become so common especially during the weekends and public holidays.

We take pictures of such sightings and report to the officers at the gate but really, is it even worth it to risk your riding on top of your vehicle while in the park, walking out to take a selfie in the wild or even sit on the vehicle’s window with you beer cans just to look cool………

 Such reckless acts not only compromise the park rules but also environmental ethics.  In this scenario, the visitors may be in awe at the sighting of a Lion neglecting their behind to a camouflaged hungry Leopard. When things go south for them they start blaming the authorities asking for compensation and possibly they may go as far as asking the relevant authorities to kill the leopard that mauled their asses. The park is there solely for the reason of protecting and conserving the Leopard and generally the wildlife but after the incident people view the animal as a villain that should be elated. Thus the question every visitor to the park should ask himself before  is it worth the risk bear in mind snakes are all over you might get out for a quick snap but end up stepping on one

We seem to have watched so many survivor movies that we all want to star in one but bear in mind this is the real world once you’re into the wilderness nothing is certain, just because there’s no lion in sight doesn’t mean its safe.

Driving off-road in the park is highly prohibited, use of drones is very much illegal but still, some people think they can get away with it. Be warned its not only the KWS patrols that you should be looking out for it you fall in the category of these delinquents who think that the park is their playground FONNAP members are always in the park at any given time the gates are open so no more monkey business.

Become a friend of the park, if you see park rules being broken, Please don’t just drive by taking a minute to take to them and remind them if they don’t heed feel free to take take a photograph of the incident and share with the KWS officers at the gate. because we have a unique status among all things on the planet and morality only applies to us.

                                   The wildlife code

  • Respect the privacy of the wildlife, this is their habitat.
  • Beware of the animals, they are wild and can be unpredictable.
  • Don’t crowd the animals or make sudden noises or movements.
  • Don’t feed the animals, it upsets their diet and leads to human dependence.
  • Keep quiet, noise disturbs the wildlife and may antagonize your fellow visitors.
  • Stay in your vehicle at all times, except at designated picnic or walking areas.
  • Keep below the maximum speed limit (40 kph/25 mph).
  • Never drive off-road, this severely damages the habitat.
  • When viewing wildlife keep to a minimum distance of 20 meters and pull to the side of the road so as to allow others to pass.
  • Leave no litter and never leave fires unattended or discard burning objects.
  • Respect the cultural heritage of Kenya, never take pictures of the local people or their habitat without asking their permission, respect the cultural traditions of Kenya and always dress with decorum.
  • Stay over or leave before dusk, visitors must vacate the Park between 6.00 p.m. – 6.00 a.m. unless they are camping overnight. Night game driving is not allowed.

 

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THE ROLE OF LEARNING INSTITUTIONS TOWARDS THE MITIGATION OF CLIMATE CHANGE

“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our Children.”Ancient Indian Proverb. Higher Education is about the future vitality of our nation and our World. Our universities should play a critical role in enhancing conservation education, climate change, and sound environmental practices.

They educate for the future they have the responsibility to teach why we must “treat the earth well” and be models for our communities

Without action on Climate Change, anything else we do will be severely compromised, the development of an alternative economy that employs students and protects our environment from the effects of climate change have to be among the highest goals of the nation.

However, higher education is not powerless. As a sector, it is the economic bedrock of many communities and as influential in shaping public opinion as religion. Climate change affects everybody, especially students who will see dramatic changes in their lifetimes due to global warming. Schools in vulnerable areas such as coastlines will not be able to operate if their campuses are flooded by rising sea levels or devastated by hurricanes or flash floods and landslides in the rural areas. Without a livable climate, higher education, as well as all human endeavors, are irrelevant.

College and university campuses are critical in helping us to understand the impacts of climate change and how to adapt to a rapidly changing world. Given the systemic impact of climate change, it is prudent that future business owners, teachers, scientists, politicians, and other leaders understand the challenges they will face and are prepared to overcome them, there is also a need to provide them with the best chance for success in the monumental task in front of them; working to ensure prosperity, social equity and environmental integrity for all through the next century.

Climate change mitigation lectures should be introduced in the curriculums in both public and private institutions sensitize on Solutions such as ending fossil fuel subsidies, implementing a carbon tax, transitioning to renewables, and building green communities require collective action, changes to policy, and large-scale investments there is a need for involvement all of higher education, must be a driving force in continued examination of climate change and development of opportunities to assure cleaner more secure planet for future generations.

Although we are not able to control very many of the aspects of climate change, through united effort we may be able to mitigate the most damaging effects on humanity.

Education teaches us the importance of taking responsibility for our actions, and it is through collective action that the greatest feats can be accomplished. It is only when leadership on the federal and international level work together for the collective good that we will have any chance of faring well through the challenges wrought upon us by climate change.

As institutions dedicated to truth, justice, and human flourishing, higher education has all the justification it needs to be the most vocal advocate for climate change at all levels of decision making. Higher education is politically powerful. Its connection with people, its economic influence, its enormous intellectual and human capital, could easily make higher education the most effective advocate for climate change.

So far higher education has been largely absent from advocating for the solutions that we need.

Therefore, in addition to changing the curriculum, and reducing the influence of the market on higher education, their role will not only be to educate but should teach and engage in advocacy for the policies and solutions that we want. Some people find advocacy distasteful because they think it means protesting in the streets

Demonstrating is the most visible form of advocacy, but the majority of advocacy involves having conversations, writing letters, and conducting outreach and education.

The Nation needs to make drastic measures come up with a joint campus sustainability movement to make climate change an issue that higher education recognizes it should address, it is up to us to build on that momentum and advocate for the solutions that can make a real difference.

Climate change cannot be reversed by a single institution nor a single country. A collective intervention in the multitude of factors that impact climate change is necessary for success.

Effective leadership and federal/state policy must be based on research and education regarding climate and the environment, energy systems, along with human/social factors and behaviors

Climate action is prudent insurance against the uncertainties of continued warming on global environmental change and its implications for human health and well being as well as the integrity of ecosystems and diversity of life

We know the right side of this issue, so let us take a stand. The students of today and tomorrow will thank us.

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RELEARNING TO BECOME CHIMPS AGAIN – OL PEJETA DIARIES

The Sweetwaters Chimpanzees Sanctuary at Ol Pejeta Conservancy offers a second chance to Chimps rescued from the internationally banned pet trade. Chimps are not native to Kenya but when a rescue centre in Burundi closed due to civil war in 1993 Ol Pejeta opened its doors currently it is home to 39 Chimps.
They get to learn what it’s like to have friends and communicate with others of their kind, to clamber, unfettered, all the way up the tallest tree. They learn how to make a perfect nest of hay to sleep on, and how to get honey out of a hollow, using a stick. Begin to understand the hierarchy of his troop, its place in it and perhaps watch it change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nobody knows exactly how many chimpanzees are left in the wild. Counting chimpanzees is often very difficult and sometimes dangerous, Chimpanzees are shy and live in dense rainforest. In addition, many of their home countries are affected by civil war and extreme poverty, Wild chimpanzees are only found in Africa, with just 5 countries that still have significant populations: Gabon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, The Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon.

The worldwide illegal trade in captive chimpanzees (and other African ape species such as gorillas) that has arisen as a result of the bushmeat crisis of central and western Africa now threatens to completely overwhelm sanctuaries such as Sweetwaters and others like it across Africa.

Often whole chimpanzee and gorilla families are butchered, leaving behind infants that are captured alive for later export to zoos and medical institutions.  Heavily traumatized, these infants are occasionally intercepted in transit by government authorities. Sanctuaries such as Sweetwaters are called upon to provide refuge.

Come meet the 39 cheeky chimps waiting to say hello!!

Though living in the same environment, and housed in the same area, the chimps portray a wide and diverse character trait from each other “fact is we have a 98.6% gene similarity” these cousins of ours.

The following are 7 of the outstanding traits of different chimps;

Name: Max

Origin: Burundi

Year Rescued: 1996

Age: 31

Max spent his first years with a French film crew from whom he was confiscated in 1990.  When he first arrived at the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary his physical condition was poor and he was very nervous and aggressive.  His insecurities led him to form a close and special relationship with the night watchman- to this day he gravitates toward men in uniform

The all-time children’s favourite chimps, if you’re ever close to the platform and hear kids burst it laughter Max must be on stage pulling one of his many stunts to attract everyone’s attention keeps everyone on the edge.

Max is one heck of a troublemaker throwing stuff to visitors anything that he can get his grip on i.e. sticks and stones this fashion police is no fan of bright colours.

Looking at this male, makes you wonder whether chimpanzees can develop psychological dwarfism which I tend to believe is a phenomenon that may occur in human children on response to maternal deprivation. Showing marked retardation on growth and body development, of which no physical cause can be detected

Name: Poco

Origin: Burundi

Year Rescued: 1995

Age: 38

Meet everyone’s favorite chimp “the tallest boy in the building” rescued from a horrific 9 year trauma of being caged in an upright position in front of a petrol station in Burundi to “attract customers” these inhumane treatment makes him fond of standing and walking on his two feet that makes him stand out from the rest of the crowd through his bipedal swagger.

Poco likes to blow kisses to his fans who cheer him as he entertains them at the platform with his partner in crime Max, their fame exceeds their reputation the two are hardly missed at the platform they would rather go for lunch late than leave the platform unattended

Pocos prowess in entertaining people shows hope of the chimps. A second chance in life where they can enjoy life and live a natural life with the wonderful environment.

Name: Ali Kaka

Origin: South Sudan

Year Rescued: 2002

Age: 18

By the sheer size of his body and his tough demeanour he is the dominant male in one of the families, this is one guy with zero chills top on the pecking order he is the big boss and you don’t want to shove shoulders with.

He’s the top Alfa male of the old chimps groups always coming up with ingenious ways to try and shortcircuit the perimeter fence.

Name: Alley

Origin: Burundi

Year Rescued: 1995

Age:23

If you thought there are no slay queens in the animal kingdom then here’s your proof and on top of that, one of the most interesting lady in the crowd, she is very good at gestures, and use of sign language for example when you call her, she is very responsive and must definitely take the opportunity to show off with her natural charms.

She makes loud kissing noises, a habit she had apparently picked up in the bar of the Hotel du Lac (lakeside hotel) where she had been kept before I.N.E.C.N had confiscated her.

When you think you’ve seen it all were just getting started, clapping to attract attention and if you give her a cold shoulder wait for it!! She gets naughty and spits at people from time to time.

Alley is one handy expert when it comes to innovation and using tools making her one of the most brilliant Chimp in the sanctuary if you were moved by Michael Scofield’s prison break stunts this is one natural Hollywood star yet to be identified.

Surprisingly this mischievous escape artist is one of the best nannies for the group and a wonderful keen groomer often found caring for the young ones 

Name: Mary

Origin: South Sudan

Year Rescued: 2002

Age: 18

Well well well!! Meet the “diva” of the house she can be a handful when she is on her many mood swings she will give you some million-dollar attitude and sometimes doesn’t even have the time to look at the visitors.

 To top it all up she is the dominant female (in one of the groups) responsible for keeping it in check so no monkey business when she is around, very close friend to Saidia whom they came together from Sudan a natural matriarch she took her in as a sister a protects her whenever a fight breaks.

For no apparent reason, she is always on a scuffle with Max.

Name: Judy

Origin: Nairobi brought in by Kal Aman

Year Rescued: 1994

Age: 34

Sadly she is paralyzed, got polio when she was young.

Her beauty and humbleness cannot pass your eye, throwing her charm to the keepers and visitors. The ideal example of a mother and a responsible family member watching her makes you realize just how much we humans have to learn from our distance cousins when it comes to maternal care and love.

Judy is one handy lady when it comes to innovation and using tools, a keen onlooker and an intelligent lady.

Name: William

Origin: South Sudan

Year Rescued: 2002

Age: 18

The dominant and alpha male in one side of the family, a fully grown male and a force to reckon with, Williams charisma is easily noticed he is an excellent leader a perfect example of a father figure he pays keen attention to very tiny things and likes everything in place.

Well, am sure their recovery story must have inspired you!! make plans to visit the sanctuary over the bear in mind there are way more interesting stories from the guides who are also their keepers thus have a very close interaction with the other chimps, and way more interesting personalities to share about the rest of them. The sanctuary is open every day for visitors to the Conservancy.

Feel free to leave your comments once you meet the chimps