Making New Friends at Gorillas Across Africa Workshop

From Valerie

I had the great opportunity to participate in the “Gorillas Across Africa” Workshop organized by the North Carolina Zoo, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo/Cleveland Zoological Society, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, The Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Program, and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. The workshop brought together early–career gorilla researchers and conservationists from 8 out of the 10 gorilla range countries to share their work, develop relationships with colleagues, and learn more about gorilla conservation through information exchange and observing the mountain gorilla conservation projects surrounding the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Julie and I attended and had an opportunity to share the work we do to protect the critically endangered mountain gorilla through conservation and health education. We had a really great time.

This group photo reminds me of what a good time we had together.

Eni Kuchambi from WCS in Cameroon with two to the workshop organizers – Kristen Lukas and Martha Robbins at the DFGFI office in Musanze Town.

Research, wild animal veterinary medicine, tourism, and education were the main topics of discussion. It was clear to see each presenters dedication to their work despite the many challenges we face like the difficulty of getting to field sites, lack of support from governments, instability caused by the threat of war, and the constant need to raise funding. It is impressive to me how we all keep working.

Julie and I both gave presentations. Participants were so amazed by how art can also be a way though which conservation can be done! One participant said, “Wow, it is very interesting because children express their ideas through the art.”

Julie presents Integrating Art Into Conservation.

I was very excited to share what we do at Art of Conservation. My presentation focused on AoC’s education program inside and outside the classroom. I received encouraging comments from the participants all wanting AoC to continue doing a great job for the survival of the critically endangered mountain gorillas.

I receive questions after my presentation. Felix Ndagijimana, at left, moderates.

All participants from Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Central Africa Republic, Republic of Congo, DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda ended the day with a site visit to AoC’s office. Innocent, Olivier, Eric, and Eusebe were ready to greet our visitors and show them around the art studio and tree nursery too. A few of the Ibirunga Children’s Tennis Team helped get drinks for everyone. We were so thrilled to meet these wonderful people from different corners of Africa.

Thank you Martha Robbins, Rich Bergl, Kristen Lukas, Tara Stoinski, and Dawn Zimmerman for organizing this workshop. Please see more photos on AoC’s site visit on Facebook. Hope you enjoy them.

A note to my new friends and colleagues: Good Job! Continue doing your great work for the survival of the critically endangered gorillas.

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