January Educator of the Month: Harry Hilser

We are thrilled to announce our first Educator of the Month in 2013!  Please join us in congratulating Harry Hilser, Field Programme Manager with Selamatkan Yaki.  Special thanks to Thirza Loffeld for this nomination and blog post.

Harry Hilser is the Field Programme Manager with Selamatkan Yaki (Save the Yaki), a conservation, research, and education program focused on protecting the critically endangered Sulawesi crested black macaque (Macaca nigra) and its natural habitat.  The yaki, which is the local name for this macaque species, is endemic to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.  They are distinguished by their bright pink, heart shaped bottoms and punk hair.  The leading threats to yaki are illegal bushmeat hunting and the commercial trade.  Yaki are considered a delicacy and are hunted at an unsustainable rate.

In an effort to raise awareness about the plight of this macaque species, Selamatkan Yaki provides conservation education programs for youth in the region.  Passionate about primate conservation, Harry serves as an educator and ambassador for the yaki and other wildlife found in Sulawesi.

“What can I do to save the yaki?”  This is a question that Harry has been asked repeatedly by his young Indonesian students.  The longer you spend working in conservation, the more you realize the inherent importance of the younger generation and the difference that they can make.  Fostering a positive attitude and appreciation for wildlife and the environment can be achieved by increasing knowledge through education.  In educating children, they can act as role models by spreading the word and instilling a stronger sense of pride in their local communities, with the potential to shift behavior from bushmeat consumption to conservation.

The problems facing the yaki require cooperation and understanding at the local, national, and international levels.  The yaki plays an important role in forest regeneration as a seed disperser.  It is also an iconic species that draws international attention and interest.  Furthermore, by protecting the yaki’s forest habitat, we safeguard a multitude of other species and diversity of life, including the big, but slightly less hairy primates – people.  Humans rely on forests for ecosystem services, such as the production of food, water, and medicine, control of climate and disease, and protection against erosion.

Education and outreach are integral parts of the approach needed to tackle complex conservation issues.  By spreading conservation messages throughout the region, we will empower the next generation to care more about the yaki and live more sustainably.  Harry says that he is hopeful for the future of yaki and believes that education and enhanced law enforcement are key to safeguarding these endangered monkeys.  He adds, “children really are the future!”  Through Primate Education Network, Harry says that he is grateful that Selamatkan Yaki can now benefit from a strong and supportive community that will enable him and other primate educators to gain access to connections, resources, and the opportunity to exchange ideas.

View educational presentations by Selamatkan Yaki.

This blog post was written by Thirza Loffeld, Primate Education Network’s Regional Coordinator for Sulawesi, Indonesia, who recently accepted a position with Selamatkan Yaki as their Field Education and Advocacy Coordinator.

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  1. […] read on PEN’s website about Harry’s inspiration as educator in primate conservation and how PEN helps to […]

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