For many people living in rural Africa, wildlife is a burden of living alongside protected areas. Most rural villagers only ever see elephant when the elephant are crop raiding their gardens, or carnivores when they are killing livestock. Human wildlife conflict is part of life for many rural villagers. Africa’s human populations is estimated to double in the next 30 years. This will only increase pressures on natural resources, and increase human wildlife conflict.
How do we find solutions for people and wildlife to co-exist? Education plays a key role in helping people understand how wildlife can be a benefit.
Weekly Wildlife Interactions
The Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust hosts a weekly conservation education program in which we bring children from some of these rural areas to interact with wildlife ambassadors. Ultimately these children will be responsible for the long-term sustainability of wildlife populations and natural resources. By working with children from a young age we aim to change people’s negative perceptions of wildlife. This project hosts a weekly group of approximately twenty school children who interact with the Trust’s wildlife ambassadors such as “Sylvester” the cheetah and “Judge” the vulture and discuss the challenges with human wildlife conflict, poaching and poisoning.
A key part of this program focuses on the problems of poisoning wildlife and the spillover effects into other species such as vultures who are experiencing major declines in their populations. The Trust transports each school group to its facilities for the weekly activity. After the interaction and discussion every child has a hot lunch and is given a “Vusa the Vulture Guardian” booklet to take home. The booklet is a narrative of a local rural villager and his problems with wildlife conflict, poaching and poisoning and the benefits of wildlife to his village and neighbors. Inside each booklet is the conflict hotline for our Human Wildlife Conflict project and team.
We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends.
Mary McLeod Bethune
During the discussion on wildlife a vital part of the conversation touches on tourism and the importance wildlife plays in bringing tourists, and therefore jobs to the local area. As Victoria Falls town is highly dependent on international tourism, the concept of how much all of the jobs in the area rely on tourism that revolves around wildlife and the local natural resources is highlighted and the need to conserve these resources so there are jobs for the children as they get older.
Over the last few years we have also provided training to more than 60 rural school teachers to learn more about teaching techniques and conservation, and disseminating those messages back into the classroom. Recently we have hired a conservation education coordinator who will be following up weekly at different schools to answer follow-up questions, measure changes in people’s perceptions, and help give support to the teachers with their science, and conservation curriculum. These children are the future for wildlife conservation.
Make a Donation to our Conservation Education Program.
If you would like to support our Conservation Education Program, you can Donate Online to help us cover the costs of education supplies, and transport for the children each week from the rural areas. Each weekly interaction costs us USD $250.
For more information on this program please E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Eco-Clubs: Translating knowledge to change
The Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust is in the process of launching an Eco-Club project: bringing a broad conservation education to children in the rural schools around Victoria Falls. The goal is to recruit more rural participation in Eco clubs, keep the existing nature-oriented clubs productive, fun and relevant throughout the rural school system, and to support teachers with more supplies and eco-activities.
We hope that through engagement, and hands-on participation in conservation and natural history learning, our Conservation Education Program will lead to long-term culture changes for the benefit of wildlife and environmental conservation.