A moment at the PASA Education Workshop
This post was submitted by Barbara Cartwright, Campaign Manager for the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Canada Office in Ottawa.
I am enjoying the African summer breeze sailing through the window of our small conference room in Nairobi. The street below is bustling with people moving about their day and I have a moment to reflect while the participants of the annual Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA) Education Workshop brainstorm on how to resolve the sometimes lethal conflicts between local communities and the critically endangered primates that share their land and forests.
I love organizing this workshop. Every year the PASA educators gather from more than 13 African countries to share, learn and inspire each other. It is an event driven by passion and knowledge – a passion for primate conservation (all African primate are endangered) and the thirst for knowledge on how to create even better education programs to protect them. This is the crux of IFAW’s mission to create a better world for animals and people. Sanctuary education officers face challenging jobs that are often under resourced and sometimes seemingly insurmountable, but they are on the frontline of daily conservation. IFAW is committed to helping the sanctuaries access the skills and resources required to do the very best job possible. By organizing training for local sanctuary education officers we improve their skill base and in turn they influence the long-term attitudes and behaviours of people thereby creating on-going public support and commitment to the protection of primates and their habitats.
The best example of this positive cycle of conservation comes from a few year s back when a small child reported a bonobo being held as a pet in home in Kinshasa, DRC. The child was able to identify the bonobo and knew it was illegal because they had participated in the education program at the sanctuary called Lola Ya Bonobo. That bonobo was confiscated, surrendered to the sanctuary and will hopefully someday be reintroduced into the wild. This year we heard of thousands of school children, community members and visitors experiencing the same innovative education programming. Each year the numbers go up and the sanctuaries reach more people. Through PASA, IFAW helps sanctuaries access the resources they need to prioritize education and protect primates. That’s why each year I am impressed and honoured to be a part of this amazing work. Now back to the workshop!