Uganda’s primates are threatened by deforestation, human-wildlife conflict, poverty, disease, and high growth of human population. With the steady decline of primate populations in Uganda, it is important to work with local communities to increase knowledge, change attitudes, and influence long-term behavior.
Primate Education Network’s (PEN) featured primate educators like Denis Agaba, Francis Rwabuhinga, and Paul Mugisha are just a few of our Ugandan colleagues who are using education to change the hearts and minds of local communities. Over the last three years, PEN’s regional team has worked diligently to understand the challenges and needs of such inspiring primate conservation educators in Uganda. Silver Birungi James said, "As a PEN Regional Coordinator, I listened to the challenges and needs of primate conservation educators in my country. They were consistently facing similar issues. As a primate conservation educator working with the Chimpanzee Trust, I understood and was looking for the same opportunities and support. It was important for my colleagues and I to come together, develop our skills, exchange lessons learned and education materials, and collaborate on a plan of action to pave a way forward for the region.”
To address our colleagues’ challenges and needs, PEN led a four-day training workshop entitled "Empowering Educators & Building a National Task Force to Protect Primates in Uganda" in Bigodi near Uganda’s Kibale National Park in March 2016. PEN's training workshop was conducted in collaboration with our partners, UNITE for the Environment and the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
PEN designed our training workshop to support primate conservation educators and national park personnel in their efforts to prevent further decline of primates in Uganda, home of the endangered mountain gorilla and eastern chimpanzee.
Our workshop’s goal was to connect, equip, and train conservation educators, park rangers, and park wardens, resulting in increased regional capacity, collaboration, and community engagement in protecting primates as flagship species for entire ecosystems in Uganda.
37 primate conservation educators, park rangers, and park wardens working across the country of Uganda participated. They represented various organizations and institutions, including the Budongo Conservation Field Station, Bwindi Apes Conservation Education Partnership, Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust (Chimpanzee Trust), Conservation Through Public Health, Great Apes Film Initiative, Jane Goodall Institute Uganda, Kasese Wildlife Conservation Awareness Organisation, Kibale Chimpanzee Project/Kibale Snare Removal Program, Kasiisi Project/Kibale Forest Schools Program, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, New Nature Foundation, Ngogo Chimpanzee Project, Uganda Museum, Uganda Poverty and Conservation Learning Group, Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, UNITE for the Environment, Wildlife Clubs of Uganda, and Uganda Wildlife Authority's Kibale, Bwindi, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks.
“We are excited as Ugandans because this is the first time that we came together [nationwide] for a training workshop on primate conservation education in our country,” said workshop participant Joan Nimusiima Katungi, Awareness & Sports Warden with the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
PEN’s workshop included a welcome dinner and four days of customized collaborative training and interactive activities in primate conservation education. The workshop also included an instructional field trip to the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, led by UNITE for the Environment.
Tinka John said, “UNITE for the Environment was proud to host PEN’s training workshop at our project location in Bigodi. During our wetlands sanctuary visit, workshop participants observed primates and recorded learning points, links to primate conservation education, and activities that could be implemented during the field trip. PEN’s post-questionnaire revealed that the participants found the experience to be very useful in improving their skills in designing instructional field trips and in lesson planning. This is evidence that it is through collaboration that we can advance primate conservation education in Uganda.”
This workshop filled a critical gap in equipping and training primate conservation educators, park rangers, and park wardens on how to effectively design and evaluate their education programs. During PEN’s training workshop, our colleagues shared their experiences, showcased their tested and proven teaching techniques, identified their challenges and needs, solved case study challenges, designed network maps, and drafted a collaborative national plan of action for Uganda.
Participants also received 48 region-specific downloadable materials from PEN’s Resource Library, as well as books, posters, curricula, teacher guides, and more in their Educator Toolkits. We are grateful to the organizations that provided in-kind support of primate education materials, including Eric Losh Illustration, Big Blue Marble, Jane Goodall Institute Uganda, UNITE for the Environment, Uganda Poverty and Conservation Learning Group, Chimpanzee Trust, and the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
PEN gained valuable insights into regional needs and received important feedback from our colleagues. The need for opportunities to learn and collaborate was clearly voiced by our respondents. The workshop was successful and resulted in new insights into needs, first-time connections between primate conservation educators, park rangers, and park wardens protecting the same ecosystems, and a plan of action for forming a national task force to sustain the collaboration that originated in this workshop.
The results of our Uganda training workshop will be presented by Pradeep Suthram and Amy Clanin at the International Primatological Society Congress in Chicago on Thursday, August 25, 2016 from 2:00 pm to 2:15 pm (read abstract). We hope to see you there!
Thanks to our partners, UNITE for the Environment and the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Bigodi Primary School for hosting our sessions in their classrooms, and the participation of 37 primate conservation educators, park rangers, and park wardens, we had a very productive workshop. The PEN team is truly inspired by our colleagues’ work and proud to be a part of this growing movement. We thank our participants for making the journey to Bigodi and for sharing their experiences.
PEN would also like to thank the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation, Happy Hollow Park & Zoo, Utah’s Hogle Zoo, Bwindi Apes Conservation Education Partnership, Sacramento Zoo, and the Heart of Illinois AAZK Chapter for providing generous grant support for this project.