It is with great pleasure that I announce Dondo Kante as Primate Education Network's (PEN) first Educator of the Month! Dondo and I worked closely on my chimpanzee education project in Senegal (2005-2006).
Special thanks to Jill Pruetz for this nomination and blog post.
– Amy Clanin, PEN Executive Director
Dondo Kante serves as the Project Manager and Conservation Steward for the Fongoli Savanna Chimpanzee Project (FSCP) in Senegal. Dondo has worked for the project since 2001. In 2008, he shifted his focus to conservation and education. As Conservation Steward for the FSCP, his main focus is to conduct educational workshops in villages around southeastern Senegal. Chimpanzees in Senegal live almost exclusively outside of nationally protected areas, and they have lived alongside people here for millennia. In order to conserve the fewer than 500 chimpanzees living in the country, it is crucial to gain the support and understanding of the local people that share their space with these apes.
Dondo is of Beudick origin, a minority group in southeastern Senegal. He speaks nine different languages and regularly converses with people living alongside chimpanzees in Beudick, Bassari, Malinke, Puhlaar and Wolof. Dondo takes a unique approach to educating and working with local people. The workshop series consists of three steps. Initially, Dondo travels to various villages – almost 30 have been included so far – and gives a general presentation on chimpanzees, using a portable generator so he can project images and films of the apes. Although most people are aware of chimpanzees, they know little about their biology and behavior, and most people have never seen a wild chimpanzee.
The second stage of the workshop series is to return to the village and to spend at least a day talking (usually over tea!) with people about chimpanzees and answering any questions they may have. The final stage of the series involves returning and presenting a talk on conservation problems the chimpanzees in Senegal face, pointing out that their problems are usually ones local people also have, such as issues associated with habitat destruction and resource scarcity.
Ultimately, the conservation program would like to identify ‘eco-rangers’ in each of these villages. The eco-rangers would regularly monitor areas where chimpanzees range and work with us to resolve any conflict that does or may occur between chimpanzees and the local people. Dondo also intends to bring the conservation workshop series to schools in town and to make presentations to government officials at various levels. Dondo has repeatedly noted that much of the potential or real conflict between humans and chimpanzees in southeastern Senegal can be resolved by simply better informing people of the lives and the needs of chimpanzees and pointing out the similarities between our two species.
Dondo also helped organize the Beudick organization OBRAR and, in collaboration with the Neighbor Ape non-profit organization (based in the U.S.), we seek to provide educational opportunities to village children in this area of Senegal. Thus far, we have been able to construct a dormitory, send a number of children to school, and annually donate school supplies to a local village. We also collaborate with the Faleme Chimpanzee Conservation Project in bringing education and opportunities to children in the Faleme region of Senegal.
Primate Education Network's mission is especially important given the diverse experiences of conservationists and educators throughout the world. Learning more about problem-solving techniques from fellow conservationists and educators provides access to a variety of innovative solutions that would be not possible without such a resource.