Congratulations to Claudine Tuyishime on being selected as PEN’s September Educator of the Month! Special thanks to Joel Musaasizi for his nomination and blog submission.
Claudine Tuyishime is part of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Rwanda team. WCS has been working in Rwanda to support the conservation of the Nyungwe Forest for the past 25 years. The Project Conservation de la Forêt de Nyungwe (PCFN) was established and continued operating throughout the civil wars in the mid 1990s. WCS’s intervention in Nyungwe was key to the creation of the Nyungwe Forest National Park in 2005. The park is one of the most densely populated areas in Africa and harbors a population of 13 different primate species, including 350 chimpanzees.
I feel privileged to work with Claudine Tuyishime, Education and Outreach Officer for the Nyungwe Forest Conservation Project. Claudine is very passionate and dedicated to primate education. This dedication has enabled her to establish 22 nature clubs in schools with an average of 14,000 students. Prior to WCS and Claudine’s efforts, the nature clubs were non-existence around Nyungwe National Park. Besides training 20 teachers in the use of educational materials, she also works with District Environment Officers to develop activities and materials, promoting chimpanzee conservation.
As part of the program, she spearheaded the development and distribution of 1,000 copies of the chimpanzee conservation education games, which were distributed in 22 schools. This game has not only interested young people in joining nature clubs, but it also helped them to distinguish chimpanzees from other primates and to learn about threats caused by the communities around the park. WCS shared this game with PEN and is available for download on the Resource Library.
Claudine also spearheaded the compilation of a chimpanzee storybook entitled Inshuti Nshya Ya Kajo na Akari, which means a new friend for Kajo and Akari. The storybook depicts the life of two young chimpanzees in the Nyungwe Forest, the dangers they face from poaching, fire, miners, and from people when they wonder outside of the forest. This book is a compilation of stories written by girls of the Gisakura Nature Club. It has allowed the girls to express themselves and share their knowledge of chimpanzees with others. By reading this book, children were encouraged to become conservation stewards of chimpanzees and learn that they can live in close proximity and harmony with each other.
The area where Claudine works is challenging because the local community is living in poverty. Their attitudes are difficult to change towards supporting conservation. Claudine is dedicated to inspiring communities around the park to love and value chimpanzees, especially due to the economic benefits associated with ecotourism activities in the region.
She established a partnership with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and local government to develop a comprehensive education and outreach strategy for the park. With Claudine’s determination to save chimpanzees and other primates in their natural habitat in Nyungwe, I believe the sky is the limit. Bravo, Claudine!
This blog post was written by Joel Musaasizi, a Conservation Biologist from Uganda. He previously worked with the Wildlife Clubs of Uganda. Joel is currently supporting the development and implementation of education and outreach initiatives around Nyungwe National Park.