A young man, donning a chimpanzee outfit hoots, screams and howls much to delight of youngsters, students of Aga Khan High School. The students smile and applause the actor, as others take turns to feel his furry outer skin to confirm if he is a real ape, after he became the centre of attraction.
On a Friday afternoon, the school is gathered to pass on their contribution to Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, run by Ngamba Island Conservation Trust. Speech after speech, the girls and boys are seemingly grateful for the opportunity offered to contribute to the upkeep of Asega- one of the chimpanzees at the sanctuary.
Asega’s profile is an interesting one. He is an adult male chimpanzee, who came from the Democratic Republic of Congo and estimated to have been born around 1998. He was confiscated in Arua, Uganda and arrived at Ngamba in December 1999.
“Chimp Asega is one of the most intelligent juveniles. He is very acrobatic, mastered the art of high jumping and uses his brains rather than his muscles, to resolve disputes in the group.
His name means ‘born in the bush’ in Lugbara,” reads his profile on the website of the Ngamba chimpanzee sanctuary.
To the youngsters, becoming a guardian of Asega is an idea worth supporting and for that, they hailed the sanctuary for letting them canvass support through the school administration and management.
Care for wildlife
Lilly Ajarova, the executive director of Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, applauded the efforts of the youth saying, “The idea of school children adopting a chimpanzee at Ngamba is proof of their care for wildlife. This is a sign of their understanding and appreciation of the importance of wildlife.”
To her, the future for wildlife conservation lies in education, education and education.
She adds, “I was introduced to wildlife at a very young age. My early childhood exposure and education occasioned my love for wildlife.”
Uganda Wildlife Education Conservation Centre (UWEC) has programmes to interest and mentor young people into conservation efforts. The conservation centre’s executive director, James Musinguzi says, they engage young people in many activities to appreciate and conserve wildlife.
These include the ‘Kids Zoo’ which introduces the concept of science among young people.
They also have a ‘Junior keeper for a day’, where youth are guided and oriented about the life of animals.
It is similar to the ‘Junior veterinarian for a day’, where pupils and students get to interact with veterinary doctors under the guidance of conservation centre’s veterinary doctors. There are also programmes of ‘Conservation internships’, conservation volunteers, children conservation education camps, community conservation outreach programmes and taxidermy.
David Musingo is the manager of Education and Information Department at the centre. He says they welcome young people to participate in a week-long ‘Holiday residential CE programme’, which has thematic guided tours around the centre with experienced educators, for two to three hours, during holidays.
“We also hold environmental school competitions or challenges, quizzes, poems, plays, skits, music dance and drama (MDD), Miss/Mr wildlife contests at regional and national levels, in partnership with Wildlife Clubs of Uganda (WCU). We also engage young people in community clean-up and tree planting to foster the culture of volunteerism and stewardship,” Musingo explains.
Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) appreciates the need to cultivate a culture of conservation among young people, right from the primary school, through high school, university and other institutions of higher learning.
UWA, a key conservation government agency, manages 10 national parks and several game reserves in Uganda.
Literature on wildlife
Bashir Hangi, the communications manager of UWA, explains that in a bid to familiarise pupils and students with wildlife conservation, they organise quizzes and competitions.
“These quizzes prompt them to read a lot of literature on wildlife. We partner with the Wildlife Clubs of Uganda (WCU) who have contacts in different schools, to raise awareness. We go and speak to pupils and students about the significance of conservation,” Hangi explains.
WCU has a network of more than 1, 000 Wildlife Clubs in schools and communities nationwide, and works with the youth to appreciate Uganda’s wildlife and natural resources.
A thousand wildlife Clubs
Established in 1975, the clubs are dedicated to protecting wildlife and conserving the environment conservation education supported by wildlife outreaches to national parks. The youth gain practical experience in wildlife as well as participate in community meetings from which they learn from adults and community wardens.
Wildlife Clubs of Africa
Similarly, the Wildlife Clubs of Africa (WCA) launched an Education toolkit for Site Support Groups (SSGs) in 2014, with an aim of engaging young people in conservation of their communities and habitats.
Dubbed ‘Engaging Young People in Education and Conservation’, it offers activities, ideas, games and discussions about the wild with a focus on three key habitats: wetlands, grasslands and forests.
The tool contributes to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals- number seven, of ensuring environmental sustainability, integrating conservation and sustainable use into education programmes.
“When you teach a child or youth to conserve nature, you have a change agent who will ensure that wildlife flourishes. A child who grows up appreciating conservation will never support poaching or wildlife trafficking,” UWA’s communication manager further explains.
UWA has stepped up efforts to fight illegal wildlife trade traffickers in order to conserve wild animals such as pangolins, for their scales and elephants, for ivory, which are at risk of losing life to ‘black’ foreign markets.
What tourism sector players say
Bashir Hangi- communication manager, UWA
“When you teach a child or youth to conserve nature, you have a change agent who will ensure that wildlife flourishes. A child who grows up appreciating conservation will never support poaching or illegal wildlife trafficking. These quizzes prompt them to read a lot of literature on wildlife. We partner with the Wildlife Clubs of Uganda (WCU) who have contacts in different schools, to raise awareness. We go and speak to pupils and students about the significance of conservation.”
Godfrey Lule- tourism enthusiast
“Conserving nature should be part of the etiquette that we are taught at home. Just like brushing our teeth, conserving nature should be our responsibility. But it requires multi-faceted approach. Reach out to the children who watch television, in schools, on the streets and on video games. Give themareas. Engage Ministry of Education, Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, UWA, UWEC, CSWCT.” free access to conservation
Chris Wanda - Primate Expeditions
Conservation among young people can be promoted through sensitising the learning institutions about conservation and its role in the national and global economy and offering opportunities to graduates to work with the conservation agencies like UWA, African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF). “Young people can be encouraged to have local associations to deliberate conservation matters as well as inviting them to major international conferences.
The foundation, which supports the Masai Mara elephant conservation in Kenya, notes in a report, that the youth feel detached and disengaged. They have varying levels of awareness about wildlife and conservation. Youth have different attitudes and beliefs about what constitutes conservation,” the report says, in part. It adds that youth who have exposure to wildlife and academic knowledge about wildlife are more likely to be motivated to engage in conservation efforts.
David Gonahasa Lukumeri- Roundbob
Conservation is best driven by interest and an emotional connection to the cause. Young people need to know why they should care for gorillas, elephants, rhinos or any animals. The reason could be tourism revenue, which contributes to community and government income and improving service delivery. It could also be maintaining the biodiversity of ecosystems and the environment. If the youth understand the cause, conservation efforts would be accelerated.