Major Announcement: Art of Conservation Goes Global!

After months of intensive field visits and meetings with potential partners and community members, ART OF CONSERVATION is officially global! We are bringing our vital assistance programs to communities in ecologically sensitive areas throughout the Caribbean Basin, which includes Mexico, Central America, Venezuela, and Guyana.

After our inspiring and enduring success in Rwanda, we will now inspire children and their families to conserve biodiversity through creative learning and one-health awareness. Julie Ghrist, our Founder and Program Director, will be moving to our new base within the jungles of Tulum in Quintana Roo, Mexico, in just a few weeks.

Staying Healthy with AoC"s One-Healthy Habits©Art of Conservation

Your help can make a world of difference! Please consider making a donation to help fund this critical expansion.

Bringing our proven AoC model to new communities halfway across the world costs a lot, as you would imagine! We can’t do it without your support. We rely on contributions we get from supporters like you to help provide the necessary resources, such as:

$25 provides basic and vital supplies such as textbooks and art supplies for our classrooms

$50 provides toothbrushes and personal health items for children

$100 provides a full year of conservation education for a Mexican child

$250 provides all students the opportunity to attend a weekend family conservation and health workshop

$500 provides Art of Conservation the funding needed to employ local artists and staff to effectively reach our community-based conservation goals in Tulum, Mexico

To continue the important work of Art of Conservation, inspiring and educating children and families worldwide about conserving biodiversity and living healthy, we need you to donate today! During our transition your support is more critical than ever for us to continue our work.

Location, Location, Location!

When Julie Ghrist first arrived in Rwanda 8 years ago, our greatest possible outcome was for local leaders to continue and sustain our work. That vision is now a reality through the work of a newly created partner organization, Conservation Heritage – Turambe (CHT). Read here for more details about CHT and the enduring AoC legacy in Africa.

Now we can bring that proven track record to another vulnerable community – this time within the Caribbean Basin. This region is exceptionally diverse in so many ways – culturally, biologically, and geologically, all within a relatively small area.

AoC will now be working in marine environments, linking connections between marine and terrestrial ecosystems!

  • In northern Honduras, the edge of the Mesoamerican reef (the second largest coral reef on Earth) is less than an hour’s drive from a Garifuna fishing village in one direction, and a stunning mountain rainforest full of toucans in another.
  • In primordial southwestern Guyana where giant anteaters, jaguar, and giant otters are still plentiful, Macushi Amerindians live on expansive savannas and fish in rivers that overflow during the wet season.
  • And in coastal Mexico, The Maya people of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula live near a variety of habitats, including dry and wet tropical forests, mangrove swamps, lagoons, and cenotes—all rich with wildlife.

This is AoC’s vision of one-health conservation!

Our novel approach to conservation outreach has made a significant difference in Rwanda, and we look forward to sharing it with children and their families first in Quintana Roo in Mexico, and then throughout the Caribbean Basin.

Please consider making a donation to fund our work during this very exciting yet critical transition into the Caribbean Basin.

FOUR Things You Can Do Now to Help Ensure Success:

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Lastly, we have launched an updated website designed to keep everyone up to date on our exciting progress. We’re so excited to begin sharing updates on our progress, challenges, and the new friends we are making in the Caribbean Basin!

Thank you again for your support!

Julie Ghrist, Founder and Program Director
Allison Hanes, Executive Director

A Visit To A Garifuna School & Appreciating An Environmental Hero

From Julie

After our stay near Pico Bonito and Los Micos national parks outside of La Ceiba in Honduras, Allison, Lucy, and I traveled along the northern Caribbean coast to the town of Tela. Mark Pouchie, a guide with Garifuna Tours was stuck with us over the following three days because we would not let him go. He has lived in Tela for years and knows just about everything and everyone. A link to Garifuna Tours-request Mark Pouchie to be your guide!

The town of Tela in Honduras. ©Art of Conservation 2014A view of the Caribbean and the town of Tela from our lodging at Hotel Maya.

As with all local communities we have been visiting in the Mesoamerican region, one of our top priorities is to meet with teachers and schoolchildren. We met with a talented teacher, Carla, and her niece who is a translator, Cinthia. We had a wonderful dinner together discussing their one-health awareness needs. The next morning we met Carla and Cinthia at Carla’s school despite it being a weekend.

With Carla and Cinthia at Centro de Educacion Basica Esteban Guardiola, Tela, Honduras ©Art of Conservation 2014With Carla, Cinthia, and children at Centro de Educacion Basica Esteban Guardiola.

Mark drove us to a nearby Garifuna village at Triunfo de la Cruz to met Carla and Cinthia. The school has 614 students, 26 teachers, 1 computer lab, and as Carla repeated more than once…an empty room for Art of Conservation programming!

After a fantastic visit to the school and the Garifuna village, Mark took Lucy, Allison, and I to an art studio called El Aura. The studio itself is a beautiful wooden Caribbean small house with paintings – mostly acrylic – from floor to ceiling.

With artists at El Aura Galeria de Arte in Tela, Honduras. ©Art of Conservation 2014Honduran artists, Cruz and Lopez, share with Allison and Lucy at El Aura art studio in Tela.

I purchased three small canvas paintings of beach and mangrove scenes which warm my soul during the cold Iowa winter I am experiencing.

Our next stop was just outside the town to the Lancetilla Botanical Garden. The Visitors Center is inspiring. Walls of posters provide excellent information on the biodiversity of the region. The grounds display trees of many species and abundant birds species.

Lancetilla Botanical Gardens in Tela, Honduras. ©Art of Conservation 2014Informative posters exhibited at Lancetilla Botanical Garden visitors center.

Chills ran down my spin when Mark began telling us about a Honduran environmental activist named Jeanette Kawas. The fate of Ms. Kawas has the unfortunate resemblance of another famous woman who did her best to study and protect the Critically Endangered mountain gorillas, Dian Fossey. Jeanette Kawas was murdered in 1995 for her fight to stop illegal deforestation and to protect the Tela bay region. Two armed men shot her and to this day no one has been arrested for the crime.

Jeannette Kawas National Park. Honduras. ©Art of Conservation 2014Jeanette Kawas National Park

We arrived at Jeanette Kawas National Park by boat. After jumping onto the beach we hiked through the rainforest, spotted Howler Monkeys, discovered animal tracks, and contemplated the brave acts of a brave woman. If not for her vision, the area could possibly be denuded of its natural beauty and significance and populated with a long string of hotels and development.

Garifuna Tours Guide Mark at Jeannette Kawas NP. Honduras. ©Art of Conservation 2014Guide Mark explaining so much great information about this special place in the Mesoamerican Region.

Snorkling, strolling on the beach, and a fresh coconut before getting back on the boat to Tela made our day one of my favorites!

Please keep up-to-date on more Art of Conservation & Conservation Heritage – Turambe news with our e-newsletter. Simply send us your name and contact information to [email protected] Thank you!

Forests, Mangroves, Lagoons, and Ocean

From Julie

In our quest to gather as much information as possible during our recent trip to Honduras, Lucy, Allison, and I started our day with more eco-tour activities and visits to local communities. We jumped in the truck with Guide Rolando from Omega Tours and left Pico Bonito National Park for a drive to a place we could put in our sea kayaks.

Kayaking in Honduras. ©Art of Conservation 2014Arriving at Cacao Lagoon.

A bit more information on the effects of deforestation facing Honduras… In the last four years, it has lost more than 33% of its forests. Illegal logging is probably the easiest place to put the blame. So while mahogany is being smuggled out of the forests and country people living in poverty are also cutting the forests to make some meager means of living.

Offloading kayaks in Honduras. ©Art of Conservation 2014Rolando offloading kayaks.

Almost 70% of the population is living in poverty. Propane is expensive to purchase which in turn forces families to cut trees for firewood. Loss of forests bring mudslides, erosion, flash floods, and road washouts. Unhealthy practices near watersheds, such as sewage and toxic runoff, is poisoning the water supply. We are told that what is missing is enforcement.

Kayaking in Honduras. ©Art of Conservation 2014Paddling in the lagoon where it meets the Caribbean Ocean.

On the banks and in the canals of Cacao Lagoon we saw beautiful birds, bats, and monkeys.

Honduras.©Art of Conservation 2014A Boat-billed Heron. Their range is from Mexico to Peru and Brazil.

Howler in Honduras ©Art of Conservation 2014A Howler Monkey on the banks of Cacao Lagoon.

Young guide in Honduras. ©Art of Conservation 2014Enjoying a picnic on the beach of the Caribbean Ocean with the son of the local man in charge of the lagoon tour.

Lucy, Allison, and I were deeply impressed with our little guide-to-be, the son of the local man in charge of the kayaking tours that works with Rolando. He, his peers, and their communities are just the kind of people we love working with.

Caribbean Ocean in Honduras. ©Art of Conservation 2014Coming out of the lagoon on the other side we were faced with beautiful Caribbean beaches, ocean, and mountains. Truly spectacular.

Thanks for the wonderful eco-tours Omega Tours!

Please keep up-to-date on more Art of Conservation & Conservation Heritage – Turambe news with our e-newsletter. Simply send us your name and contact information to [email protected] Thank you!

Where Rolando Leads… Lucy, Allison, and I Will Follow

From Julie

You really can’t beat the beauty of Pico Bonito National Park in Honduras. Lucy, Allison, and I arrived by ferry to the city of La Ceiba on the north coast and Caribbean side of the country and quickly made our way to the Omega Tours Eco Jungle Lodge located near the eastern most boundary of the park next to the Cangrejal River.

Silvia and Udo run the lodge offering lovely hospitality and natural beauty everywhere you turn. Having just a day and a half in the area, we were immediately introduced to an equally lovely tour guide… Rolando. Silvia assured us that he was knowledgable about the forest and local communities – which proved positively true. We were joined by Rolando’s grandfather, Alejandro, who at eighty years of age is still strong as an ox.

While ascending foothills in the Nombre de Dios Mountain Range we came upon a huge tree – or at least remnants of a huge tree that is now victim to a strangler fig. Rolando began climbing and of course we followed.

vertical-templatetestWLDGuide Rolando and Lucy climbing a columnar tree.

Honduras ©Art of Conservation 2014Coming out of Nombre de Dios Park, we walk through local communities and ask Rolando many questions. Here we are with Alejandro at a primary school where one of Rolando’s children attends.

Omega Tours in Honduras. ©Art of Conservation 2014We meet Silvia, Udo, and dog Bullet along the road.

Our next activity was to climb into the low lying tropical rain forest of Pico Bonito toward its cloud forest – or at least as far as El Bejucco Waterfall. The forest is stunning. This is probably the most diverse area in Central America.

The Cangrejal River – Pico Bonito NP ©Art of Conservation 2014We cross the Cangrejal River to enter Pico Bonito National Park. Rolando is in the lead followed by Lucy and Allison.

Pico Bonito, declared a national park in 2006, is the second largest national park in Honduras. The total land area is 1,073 square kilometers with over 270,000 acres of unexplored rain forest.

Waterfall in Pico Bonito NP, Honduras. ©Art of Conservation 2014Rolando at El Bejucco waterfall.

We were tired, yes, but Rolando was impressed with the three of us and had to believe every word of our gorilla-volcano-hiking stories we shared with him.

The Cangrejal River in Honduras. ©Art of Conservation 2014Rolando crossing the Cangrejal River.

We were down the mountain and heading back to Omega Lodge with one last cross over of the Cangrejal, this time on a 400-foot-long hanging bridge.

Omega Tours in Honduras. ©Art of Conservation 2014Click here for more Omega Tours information.

Rolando took us to other wild places the following day. Coming up next!

Please keep up-to-date on more Art of Conservation & Conservation Heritage – Turambe news with our e-newsletter. Simply send us your name and contact information to [email protected] Thank you!

Fantastic Updates From Rwanda

From Valerie

Art of Conservation started the one-health awareness programs at the Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club. The Rwandan team: Valerie, Eric, Innocent, Olivier, and Eusebe continue carrying on AoC’s work!! If you recall, the Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club is one of the great local community initiatives that we have been supporting for eight years. Children are provided the opportunity to exercise, practice teamwork, and gain a sense of accomplishment. In addition to that the club also brings local people together leading to a stronger sense of community and pride while playing sports in the name of conservation.

My colleagues and I say, “Let us carry on this great initiative!” The children are eager to know more about what surrounds them in order to protect them!

Recently, our discussion began with review questions from previous lessons. I ask, “Somebody please tell me the name of Rwanda’s three national parks.” The children raise their hands saying, “Me! Please, me! Please!” This is different from what happens during our lessons with children in schools. They say, “Teacher, teacher!” It draws my attention and makes me happy when I see happy children wanting to respond to questions and eager to learn!

CHT at Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club. ©Conservation Heritage - TurambeChildren are excited to respond to the review question before I introduce the new topic of the day.

We distribute a map to each child. I ask them to point to the areas depicting mountain gorilla habitat.

Studying gorilla habitat. ©Conservation Heritage - TurambeEach child points and shows me the two places where mountain gorillas live: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Virunga Massif.

I keep on monitoring the children to make sure they all understand that our gorillas live in only two places. I know some children are young and they may have been distracted by a passing car on the road since the tennis courts are located next to a main road!

CHT at Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club. ©Conservation Heritage - TurambeI help our students study the map.

I guide the kids thoroughly on what the Virunga Massif means with the help of another close-up illustration. They now know that mountain gorillas are not only in Rwanda but in other neighboring countries namely, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They also learn the name of the park in each country. It is such a discovery for these children to know what the Virunga Massif is made up with.

One-health awareness in Rwanda. ©Conservation Heritage - TurambeOur youth sports kids ask questions as we study the Virunga Massif.

The next session is the art activity. During this session, children have fun. Their drawings are very good. The first excise they draw a proportional silverback mountain gorilla and the second exercise they draw their own mountain gorilla.

Eric working with kids. ©Conservation Heritage - TurambeWith Eric’s instruction, children have fun drawing a proportionally correct silverback mountain gorilla using a pencil and they paint their artwork with watercolors.

Coach Rachid joins. ©Conservation Heritage - TurambeHappily, Coach Rachid joins the children during the workshop. “Do gorillas live in one family?” he asks. This might be our next workshop topic. Let us think about it.

Gorilla drawings. ©Conservation Heritage - Turambe

Stay tuned for more blogs coming!


-Art of Conservation completed seven years of successful conservation programming in Rwanda with the exciting announcement that its local staff has launched their own nonprofit, Conservation Heritage – Turambe (CHT). Turambe means “let us be sustainable” in Kinyarwanda. Please keep up-to-date on more Art of Conservation & Conservation Heritage – Turambe news with our e-newsletter. Simply send us your name and contact information to [email protected] Thank you!-

Meeting Mesoamerican Reef Region Partners

From Julie

Soon to call the Mesoamerican Region our new Art of Conservation home, I am busy as ever with stacks of books and multiple tabs open on my computer studying the varied ecosystems found in this place on Earth. Where is this eco-region? It extends from the northern tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula southward toward Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Over the recent winter holidays I was joined by AoC’s Lucy and Allison in Honduras. Our main goal was to meet Jenny Myton of Coral Reef Alliance and her husband, Ian Drysdale, of Healthy Reefs for Healthy People on the island of Roatan, the place they call home. Crazy winter weather nearly usurped this opportunity! Finally Jenny and Ian arrived and all was great.

With Jenny at Roatan. Honduras 2014. ©Art of ConservationOn one of the three Bay Islands – Roatan – in Honduras with Jenny, her dog, and Allison.

Jenny and Ian, a superstar couple with years of dynamic environmental work and advocacy, opened doors for us on Roatan and the north coast mainland outside of the cities of La Ceiba and Tela.

Allison with Ian and dogs. Roatan, Honduras. ©Art of Conservation 2014Ian and Allison with happy dogs.

Lucy, Allison, and I wanted to learn more about the human cultures, indigenous peoples, and ecosystems under stress and to determine if Art of Conservation could be an additive effort in the region. We received such kind and honest openness from everyone we met. And believe me, we drilled anyone who crossed our path with a myriad questions.

Roatan, Honduras. ©Art of ConservationA whole new world appears under the surface of the Caribbean Sea.

Groups of dedicated individuals, organizations, and policy makers put out a report card indicating reef health. Healthy Reefs for Healthy People’s 2012 report is here.

With Christi at Roatan Marine Park. Honduras. ©Art of ConservationLucy with Christi Etches, Director of Community Development at Roatan Marine Park.

Reestablishing destroyed mangroves, initiating recycling programs, and fitting kids with a scuba tank and gear are just a few of the activities Christi Etches conducts in her role as a community leader on Roatan.

Local artist Noah at Rusty Fish on Roatan. ©Art of Conservation 2014Noah, a local artist employed at The Rusty Fish on Roatan shows us art made from recycled materials. has excellent coverage on Honduras.

I think you can see that we met terrific people doing incredible work. I have more to share about Honduras and Art of Conservation’s exciting new global efforts.

Please keep up-to-date on more Art of Conservation & Conservation Heritage – Turambe news with our e-newsletter. Simply send us your name and contact information to [email protected] Thank you!

Sports for Gorillas News from Rwanda

From Olivier

Hi, Olivier here with exciting Sports for Gorillas news.
In December, children from our Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club competed in the JUNIOR TENNIS NATIONAL TOURNAMENT at Cercle Sportif de Kigali.
Five clubs participated in the tournament:
1. Cercle Sportif de Kigali
2. Nyarutarama Tennis Club
3. Kanombe Tennis Club
4. Remera Tennis Club
5. Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club
Coach Rachid Nsanzimana and I traveled with seven of our players on the bus to Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali.

Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club kids going to tournament in Kigali. ©Conservation Heritage - TurambeIbirunga Tennis & Running Club players at Cercle Sportif: Bottom row-Marie Claire Uwimbabazi, Emmanuel Twagirayezu, Eurade Ishimwe. Top row- Clementine Uwineza, Jean Bosco Hakorimana, Coach Rachid Nsanzimana, Evariste Nahayo, and Darius Mufasha.

Marie Claire Uwimbabazi has the second place at the national level while Clementine Uwineza has the third place.

Evariste Nahayo is the third while Jean Bosco Hakorimana is the forth at the national level.

Other Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club Team members also played well. After defeating Jean de le Croix Ndahunga from Kanombe Tennis Club 4-0 Darius Mufasha is fifth at the national level while Emmanuel Twagirayezu is sixth after defeating Aimable Nshimiyimana from Cercle Sportif 4-2.

Eurade Ishimwe was beaten, however he played very well.

Thank you very much Art of Conservation for allowing all this to happen. On my side I was respected at both District and National levels because of this tournament.

-Art of Conservation completed seven years of successful conservation programming in Rwanda with the exciting announcement that its local staff has launched their own nonprofit, Conservation Heritage – Turambe (CHT). Turambe means “let us be sustainable” in Kinyarwanda. Please keep up-to-date on more Art of Conservation & Conservation Heritage – Turambe news with our e-newsletter. Simply send us your name and contact information to [email protected] Thank you!-

Allison Contributes To The Gorilla Journal

From Julie

Allison Hanes writes about the work of Art of Conservation in the latest Gorilla Journal. In addition to Allison’s article, you’ll find other important news including a discussion on the economic value of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I’d like to thank editor Dr. Angela Meder for putting out such an informative journal and for incorporating Allison’s article in this latest edition.

Please click here Gorilla Journal No. 47, December 2013.

Please keep up-to-date on more Art of Conservation news with our e-newsletter. Simply send us your name and contact information to [email protected] Thank you!

Wishing You Happy Holidays

Dear friend,

Thank you! Art of Conservation would not be possible without wonderful supporters like you! Together we are taking action to ensure Planet Earth is healthy and full of biodiversity. Help us to continue to celebrate biodiversity and protect our shared environment through creative learning and one-health awareness by increasing your support this year.

Happy Holidays ©Art of ConservaitonWishing you HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

During the holiday season it is hard to ignore the amount of waste and consumption prevalent in today’s society. Because AoC continues to mindfully bridge gaps between people and the environment, we hope you will continue to support our mission.

Your contribution to Art of Conservation allows us to continue:
• Safe Learning
• Learning Through Creative Expression
• One-Health Awareness
• Capacity Building
• Celebrating Biodiversity
• Organizational Growth

When you donate $50.00 or more during the holiday season, you will receive a small Primate Connections calendar which features AoC photos on the cover as well as for the month of June, which is also Kwita Izina month! Kwita Izina is a Rwandan ceremony of giving a name to a newborn baby gorilla. Don’t miss out on this ability to support AoC while receiving a beautiful 2014 calendar to help you plan out the new year!

Primate Connections 2014 CalendarReceive a Primate Connections 2014 calendar with a $50.00 or more donation!

Support Art of Conservation with a donation!

Thank you for all that you do to support Art of Conservation’s work in saving species and one-health conservation. Please feel free to reach out to us should you have questions or want to learn more.

With sincere thanks,

Julie Ghrist
Founder, President & Program Director
[email protected]

Allison Hanes
Executive Director
[email protected]

Art of Conservation, Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, tax ID#20-8119983; all donations are tax deductible. No goods or services were provided in full or partial consideration for the gift.

Celebrating Biodiversity: A Video of AoC’s Pratt Exhibition & Fundraiser

From Julie

The generous and talented couple, Wendy and Alan Kaplan, offered their time and talent at our recent event in New York. They mixed and mingled with our guests, grabbed quiet moments for conversation, and covered the evening of talks, art on display, music, and celebration of Planet Earth’s glorious biodiversity. Philip Hanes came to our rescue and put the clips together. Thank you very much Wendy, Alan, and Philip!

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt
 Scenes from Art of Conservation’s Exhibition & Fundraiser at Pratt Institute Manhattan. 22 November 2013