UNITE Workshops on Gorillas, Population
by Michelle Slavin
October 19, 2011
: Gorilla Conservation Workshop in Bwindi
In late June 2011, UNITE was asked to participate in a gorilla workshop in Ruhija, which is located in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (map). Organized by NC Zoo’s Rich Bergl and the Max Planck Institute’s Martha Robbins, the goal of the workshop was to bring together gorilla researchers from all over Africa to discuss pressing issues and successes in gorilla conservation.
Participating organizations included the Wildlife Conservation Society, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, North Carolina Zoo, Zoological Society of San Diego, Goulago Triangle Ape Project, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Conservation Through Public Health, Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, International Gorilla Conservation Programme, Uganda Wildlife Authority, Rwanda Development Board, the Mountain Gorilla Skeletal Project and the Institute for Tropical Forest Conservation. Seven African countries were represented: Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.
It was a fascinating three days as we learned about the different challenges found in each country and how conservationists approach their challenges. I learned an enormous amount and, to be honest, was in awe of some of these conservationists! The gentlemen from DRC had my utmost respect—they refer to their techniques as “Adaptive Management,” in that they adapt to whichever political situation they happen to find the gorillas in, whether it be rebels, government, or more rebels. They are, in my opinion, the heroes of the conservation world.
Another amazing conservation technique I learned about was the veterinary component for mountain gorillas. Many times, when a gorilla falls ill, it is treated with antibiotics or surgery. That gorillas have better health care than many humans was definitely something I had a hard time wrapping my mind around. However, desperate times call for desperate measures—or “Extreme Conservation,” as it is sometimes known.
On the final day I presented to the group on conservation education in general and, later in the day, specifically on UNITE. The general conservation education presentation resulted in really good dialogue about what makes for “good” conservation education, which I think is an incredibly important topic. [To learn more about conservation education in general please view our PowerPoint presentation, which is available in the right-hand Media Gallery.]
UNITE was lucky enough to receive some of the West African gorilla researchers in Bigodi a few days after the workshop. Over 40 teachers came to meet them and to learn about gorilla conservation in their countries. The presenters, Imong Sunday (Nigeria), Romanus Ikfuingei (Cameroon), Ekwoge Abwe (Cameroon) and Jean Robert Onononga (Congo-Brazzaville) did a wonderful job speaking with the teachers. Each of them shared their own education experiences (two were former teachers and the other two had parents who were teachers), and commended the UNITE teachers for their work in such difficult conditions. All this clearly meant a great deal to the teachers. The UNITE teachers asked insightful questions about management issues in West Africa and about gorillas in general. After the talk UNITE revealed new UNITE water bottles for the teachers...they were definitely a hit!
A huge thank you to everyone involved in the gorilla workshop and the visit to Bigodi!
: Learning About Human Population Growth
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