Tag Archives: animals

Kwaimatta Village in South America

72-From-Julie-2013-new_rcs

While in most parts of the world everyone seems to be exploiting natural resources, cutting down rain forests, destroying fragile ecosystems, Guyana is doing something different. Under its Low Carbon Development Strategy, Guyana receives USD 50 million per year from international partners to protect its forests. Of course one needs to read in more detail to discern the pros and cons to this, but let’s be thankful for this long-term development plan and hope it works and others follow. Guyanas rain forests benefit us all no matter where we live.

The Karanambu team took Allison, Lucy, and I to communities in the Northern Rupununi to conduct our one health conservation activities. This entailed boating to get to the schools.

Geography at Kwaimatta Village. ©Art of Conservation 2013I started off with a geography activity. This young girl marched right up to the world map and placed the South America card in the absolutley correct place.

Our first village – Kwaimatta (Massara)- is the closest and perhaps most secluded of all three we visited. In general, this area is a critical watershed between the Amazon and Essequibo rivers. The open savanna and riverine plain is stunning.

Decorating animals masks at Kwaimatta Primary School, Guyana. ©Art of Conservation 2013We talked about the local animals and discussed what makes them so special and then out came the markers, crayons, and paper masks.

A number of the children attending Kwaimatta Primary School have parents that are employed by the Karanambu Trust and Lodge.

Decorating animals masks at Kwaimatta Primary School, Guyana. ©Art of Conservation 2013Children decorating their animal masks.

As you may remember from a previous post, Des Moines artist Amy Harris helped AoC with the otter, monkey, jaguar, macaw, and arapaima masks. Thanks again Amy! Do you love the masterpieces?

Decorating animals masks at Kwaimatta Primary School, Guyana. ©Art of Conservation 2013Blue jaguars in Guyana? Right on!

Here I am in a new part of the world – experiencing new cultures and trying out AoC’s curricula. It is safe to say that no matter where you are children want to learn and discover.

Decorating animals masks at Kwaimatta Primary School, Guyana. ©Art of Conservation 2013Salvador tries to scare the kids with his Red Howler Monkey mask. I think they are on to Salvador! Not scared at all.

We had a few extra moments to end our time at Kwaimatta so I did a quick oral health lesson with toothbrushes and paste for everyone.

Oral health at Kwaimatta Primary School, Guyana. ©Art of Conservation 2013Allison and Salvador distribute toothbrushes and paste.

Diane McTurk with students at Kwaimatta Primary School, Guyana. ©Art of Conservation 2013Diane McTurk with her Kwaimatta Village children.

It was a pleasure to end our class with outdoor craziness including singing and showing appreciation to the villages’ beloved Aunti Di.

Please join us at Pratt NYC on November 22nd. Get your tickets here!

Over The Mountains Of The Moon

From Julie Ghrist

Allison, Dr. Lucy, and I had a few quick hours of sleep at the pretty Cara Lodge in Georgetown before our charter flight took us into the interior of Guyana. This remote and sparsely populated landscape is where in the 16th and 17th centuries Europeans believed that there was a place of immense wealth known as El Dorado. Searches for this treasure wasted countless lives and drove at least one man to suicide. Now El Dorado is referred to as a source of untold riches somewhere in the Americas. At the bottom of this post you’ll find Edgar Allen Poe’s poem where he makes reference of El Dorado being located ‘Over the mountains of the Moon’.

Georgetown to Karanambu, Art of Conservation 2013Allison and Lucy boarding Trans Guyana Airways charter flight to the Northern Rupununi region of Guyana.

A bit tongue-in-cheek, we were not searching for pots of gold – instead we were on a quest to find eager schoolchildren ready to engage in AoC’s one-health conservation education activities as well as view heaps of beautiful animals in their own biodiversity-rich landscape. Guess what? We found it all and more!

Guyana, Northern Rupununi by plane.  ©Lucy-Spelman 2013Approaching Karanambu Lodge in North Rupununi from the plane. Photo courtesy of Lucy Spelman.

As I mentioned before, Art of Conservation is honored to have been invited by Lucy and the Trust to Karanambu. Lucy has shared stories about Karanambu for all the years I have known her. And Allison and I were really looking forward to meeting the famous Giant River Otter Lady, Ms. Diane McTurk!

Meeting Dian McTurk and Ilsa. ©Art of Conservation 2013The legendary Ms. Diane McTurk greets us. We are joined by Dr. Ilze. (From left to right: Lucy, Allison, Ilze, Diane McTurk)

Ms. McTurk was born at Karanambu. Karanambu is a 100-square mile former cattle ranch her family owned that is now a Managed Resource Protected Area or at least headed that way thanks to the collaborative effort of the Karanambu Trust and partners. Diane is known for her work in rehabilitating orphaned giant river otters to the wild since 1985. The pelt trade, natural trauma, and people taking them as pets are the main reasons why she has ended up with more than 40 otters.

Allison with Diane McTurk. North Rupununi. ©Art of Conservation 2013Allison with Diane McTurk, the famous Giant River Otter Lady or Auntie Di as she is known all local Makushi Amerindians.

Before continuing to the lodge, Dr. Lucy was asked to make a quick house call to a sick bull calf. Marvin, a Karanambu staff member, was pleased to receive Lucy’s advise and after a few days the calf was feeling better.

Northern Rupununi with Diane McTurk.  ©Art of Conservation 2013Lucy and Diane treating Marvin’s sick calf.

At Marvin's. ©Art of Conservation 2013This fabulous toucan is the first bird I saw in Guyana.

There may be as many as 600 species of birds in this area. The number of all animals species found here is high and includes species that are rare in other parts of Central and South America. Perhaps this is because of an integration of 4 ecosystem types: wetlands, savannas, rivers, and forests.

Salador de Caires invites us to his boat. ©Art of Conservation 2013Salvador de Caires invites us onto his boat.

Our final stop for the day – Karanambu Lodge – requires a boat to get there. Salvador de Caires, who with his beautiful wife Andrea run the lodge with the nicest of hospitality, gets us there safely. More on Andrea and Salvador in my next post.

Lucy & Diane McTurk on our way to Karanambu House. ©Art of Conservation 2013Lucy and Diane.

This is just a glance at the very beginning of our trip. I have lots more to share with you. Please stay in touch. And here is the poem.

Eldorado by Edgar Allan Poe

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old-
This knight so bold-
And o’er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow-
“Shadow,” said he,
“Where can it be-
This land of Eldorado?”

“Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,”
The shade replied-
“If you seek for Eldorado!”

Artist Amy Harris Helps AoC

From Julie Ghrist

Allison, Lucy, and I are on our way to the Karanambu Trust and Eco-Lodge in Guyana, South America tomorrow for a week of activities with the local people in the North Rupununi region. Being invited and accompanined by Dr. Lucy Spelman, an AoC Board Member and active team member at the Karanambu Trust, is an honor. We are frantically putting together our supplies and education materials. Tomorrow morning is going to come quickly! Why even sleep tonight since we are leaving for our respective airports at 4:00am and still much to do?

With Amy Harris in Des Moines. Art of Conservation 2013Sitting with Amy Harris discussing animals, science, culture, and art.

I couldn’t have done all the prep work for the trip without the generous contribution from artist Amy Harris. Amy, an Iowa native, with a MFA and BFA in painting is a senior lecturer at Iowa State University’s College of Design. Amy loves drawing which is great because I asked her two weeks ago if she could create proportional drawings of the Giant River Otter, jaguar, Red Howler Monkey as well as straight on black and white outline drawings of these animals plus an arapaima fish and Red & Green Macaw. Her drawings are beautiful. I can hardly wait to meet the Amerindians of Guyana and work together with them with AoC’s one-health conservation education and health awareness activities. Truly a dream for me. Amy is expecting to see all of the photographs that Allison, Lucy, and I take of the children busy with the art activities.

Amy Harris with macaw drawing. Art of Conservation 2013This morning at Amy’s front door… picking up the last of the masks – the Red & Green Macaw.

To see Amy’s work please find her at Bent Edge Alchemy. Her work with fabric is beautiful. She tells me she had a lot of fun with these animal drawing exercises – I’m glad because she helped AoC in a BIG way!

Giant River Otter mask. Original drawing by artist Amy Harris. Art of Conservation. 2013Colored in Giant River Otter mask. Here we come Guyana!

Thank you Amy for your support. Once we return, we’ll share with you how you’ve helped touched minds, hearts, and imaginations in Guyana.

The job and everyday life-style of taking care of our animals, natural spaces, children, human & animal health is a joint effort by people of all disciplines. I hope that this is clearer to more people around the world. Artists, scientists, teachers, health professionals, tour operators, Moms and Dads, and on and on all need to be engaged in caring for our home, Earth.

Join AoC at the Wildlife Conservation Network Expo

From Julie Ghrist

Art of Conservation’s Executive Director, Allison Hanes, will be an expo associate at the Wildlife Conservation Network Expo in October. If you are in San Francisco, please drop by to say hello to her and learn more about AoC’s one-health conservation education and health awareness programs as well as listen to Jane Goodall -WCN’s keynote speaker. Thank you!
WCN Expo October 2013

From WCN-
Each year WCN brings together the world’s best wildlife conservationists to exhibit and speak about issues concerning endangered species around the world. In 2013 Jane Goodall, DBE will once again be our keynote speaker! Other attendees will include Sir Iain Douglas-Hamilton of Save the Elephants, Dr. Laurie Marker of Cheetah Conservation Fund, and the rest of the WCN Partners.

October 12, 2013
10am to 6pm
Mission Bay Conference Center
San Francisco, CA
Keynote Speaker: Jane Goodall, DBE

November in NYC! Save the Date!

From Julie Ghrist

Hi Friends & Generous Supportors,
AoC is having an exhibition and fundraiser in New York City on Friday, 22 November 2013. Art of Conservation Board Member Cheryl Stockton has worked at Pratt Institute for many years and has secured a fantastic site at Pratt’s Manhattan CCPS Gallery. Please come by if you are in the city! Allison, Cheryl, Lucy Spelman, Andrew Walmsley and I will be there with board members, volunteers, photographers, musicians and incredibly special friends and colleagues. Details will follow as we get closer to the time, but feel free to contact us anytime at [email protected] Thank you, Julie

AoC Exhibition & Fundraiser New York November 2013

Tapping Into Splendid Imagination Before Planting Trees

From Julie Ghrist

In June, Allison and Cheryl (AoC’s ED and Board Member respectively) arrived from the US while photographer friend Andrew joined us in Rwanda from the UK. All travelers were willing and able to help the team in all ways possible. Our first afternoon together was at the office and included practicing our ‘becoming trees’ exercise. Cheryl practices movement with dedication so with Valerie the two were the most exquisitely inspirational teachers for this exercise.

Becoming trees at Art of Conservation 2013At the office, Valerie guides us in a creative exercise of imagining we are trees.

In the classroom, asked to find space in a rather crowded classroom Cheryl and Valerie guide the children in various stages of a tree. Beginning as a seed to imagining our toes are the roots and our skin the bark to our fingers leaves fluttering in the wind. Our arms are strong branches which monkeys, gorillas, and insects can move upon.

Becoming trees at Art of Conservation 2013Cheryl and Valerie inspire children to consider themselves as a seed in the ground to a grown tree.

Fully energized the children race out of the classroom to plant trees.

Fun lessons. Art of Conservation 2013Students bring along bat and monkey puppets, spiders, and more to plant trees.

Week One Visit to Art of Conservation

From Allison Hanes

Two full days of travel and three plane rides later I arrive late Tuesday June 4th in Kigali, Rwanda with Art of Conservation (AoC) board member Cheryl Stockton and photographer friend/colleague Andrew Walmsley. The first thing I notice off the plane is that distinct musky yet floral smell of Africa! It’s nice to be back to East Africa after two years. We travel by car up and around in mountains about an hour to Musanze welcomed by new friends, including four friendly dogs at The Garden House, a friend’s bed and breakfast nearby Art of Conservation. On our beds are beautiful paper maché gorilla masks made by the Rwandan AoC team and our full exciting itinerary for the month ahead.

The following morning after a proper African breakfast, Julie starts out our trip and adventure in Rwanda by picking us up and taking us to the Art of Conservation compound just a few streets away. Again we receive a warm welcome by Julie’s dogs, new friends, neighbors and staff. The tour is impressive, including a beautiful flower and vegetable garden with giant corn stalks, composting site, rain water collection tank, array of recycled bird feeders and birdhouses, art studio and several common areas filled with beautiful artwork.

Art of Conservation garden. June 2013Art of Conservation garden.

Bird house painting at Art of Conservation June 2013Bird houses in the works being painted and varnished by AoC staff and friends.

We make introductions. I share Ghirardelli chocolates from San Francisco and Cheryl “I Love NY” shirts for the staff. We instantly adore our smiling kind new friends.

Cheryl with team and new I Love You t-shirts. Art of Conservation June 2013Olivier, Cheryl, Eusebe, Valerie, Eric and Innocent full of smiles.

Allison and team with chocolate. Art of Conservation 2013Eric, Valerie and myself enjoying San Francisco Ghiradelli chocolates.

We unpack and layout our photography gear organizing lenses and learning all about our new toys, which some of us particularly myself, are yet to play with. Nikon, Canon, Apple and GoPro equipment overflow the table and we immediately start flicking through manuals and dialing in settings ready for our early morning trek to the mountain gorillas.

Enough equipment? Art of Conservation 2013Do you think we have enough equipment?

Thursday morning we are up before sunrise ready to hike up Volcanoes National Park. Cheryl, Julie and myself trek to the furthest gorilla family, Susa, which has three silverbacks. My previous experience of tracking gorillas for three months in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda proved useful in preparing me for the day ahead but I still found the trek not to be all that easy. The high-altitude was very noticeable especially since we had limited time to acclimatize. However, we made it to the group without any trouble and I managed to handle Andrew’s special 300mm f2.8 lens for the hour-long session. You can tell by my shots and GoPro filming comments that the equipment was heavy! I was still able to get some great shots and had a wonderful time. It was one of the best gorilla treks I have experienced, particularly because I could share the experience with new friends and colleagues.

Trekking gorillas. Art of Conservation 2013In the forest with Julie.

Furry mountain gorillas. AoC 2013Rwandan gorillas are much furrier than the Ugandan population because of the higher elevation and cooler climate.

We had a grand time and our guide “D” joined us in our celebration dinner at Muhabura Restaurant. Julie always likes to celebrate after a good day of gorilla trekking and we are full of laughs. Each day I feel luckier to work with such inspiring, talented, hard working and fun colleagues.

Friday we get right into meetings and prepare for week two classes. I’ve noticed pretty much everyday at AoC we find ourselves singing, dancing and acting! I’m learning so many new things here in Rwanda. We also paint birdhouses with Eric and Eusebe and end the evening with a party in AoC’s garden and bungalow. Julie’s friend Alberto cooks us up a feast and Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) friends and colleagues join us to make another great close to the night.

Group meeting in bingalow. Art of Conservation 2013Let the work begin.

Saturday we all meet at the tennis courts. One of AoC’s most significant programs is the Ibirunga Tennis and Running Club. Olivier was recently nominated president and Valerie treasurer. AoC murals, plants and flowers decorate the grounds. The nets look like they have had their run and I am happy to know that by the end of the month through a USTA grant the club will have two brand new nets!

Tennis with Art of Conservation 2013Julie runs tennis drills and exercise with the children. I pick up a racquet after several years.

Cheryl guiding yoga at the courts.  Art of Conservation 2013Cheryl cools us down leading us in a yoga session and then I get to play a good high-energy game of tennis with Johnny, one of the best tennis players in the community.

Ibirunga Tennis & Running ClubThese kids fill you with joy and energy!

After a great workout I quickly take a shower and we head off to find our Batwa friend or as Rwandans now call her – “marginalized indigenous woman.” However, the dramatic driving adventure in search of Marie Rose is unsuccessful and instead we follow Art of Conservation’s dear friend and partner Cecil to her village for dancing. We bring sacks for rice, beans and a jerry can of banana beer. Cecil is a very special woman that Art of Conservation has been working with for years and is famous throughout Rwanda. To learn more about her Saving the Forests Briquette Initiative read here.

Sunday we are still full of energy editing photos, working and preparing for the remaining few weeks. Monday is our first day of classes at one of our two local schools and the fun has just begun!

Singing for Gorillas – 2013 Children’s Performance Preparations at Art of Conservation

From Julie Ghrist

 
Art of Conservation is preparing for our 2013 children’s performances with music written and recorded by musicians Kaiser Cartel. Please watch our video below, thanks!

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt
Preparations for 2013 children’s performances at Art of Conservation

Brownie Troop Gets Behind-the-Scenes Visit to Santa Barbara Zoo

From Guest Blogger - Mary ElliotBy Mary Elliott for Brownie Troop 50305

When 11 second-grade girls gathered around Santa Barbara Zoo zookeeper Lacy Byrnes, they were quietly looking toward bachelor residents Goma and Kivu, two male Silverback gorillas munching on their afternoon treats while relaxing in their habitat.

Santa Barbara Zoo keeper, Lacy ByrnesSanta Barbara Zoo zookeeper Lacy Byrnes.

As Byrnes spoke about these disappearing creatures and their plight on the critically endangered list, the girls listened intently while gazing toward the great apes before them.

As part of learning about conservation, while also earning badges, Brownie Troop 50305 got a behind-the-scenes tour at the Santa Barbara Zoo by gorilla keeper Lacey Brynes. She explained the day-to-day life of the Santa Barbara Zoo’s two male silverback gorillas.

While working in facts about the gorillas’ plight, Brynes also talked about a more elusive species — the mountain gorilla, found only in their natural habitat at Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest in Uganda and the Virunga Massif in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Brownie Troop 50305 got a behind-the-scenes tour at the Santa Barbara Zoo Brownie Troop 50305 members, left from, Tilly Dozier, Alyssa Silva, Collette Johnson, Charlotte Hamilton, Lauren Elliott, Sequoia Chamlee, Elaia Hamilton, Carah Shapiro, Elizabeth Leka, Catherine Bryson and Leila Suleimanagich visit the Santa Barbara Zoo.

Their zoo visit is part of a bigger project in which the Brownies then learned more about the mountain gorilla, and how with only approximately 880 left in the wild, they face extinction.

With their new in-depth look at the gorillas and the knowledge and information still fresh after the zoo visit, the girls had the opportunity to write to girls their own age who live near the more endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Through Art of Conservation, the girls were able to ask girls their own age questions about living so close to such rare and raw beauty.

The exchange proved difficult in that no mail is reaching Rwanda at the moment. Julie Ghrist, founder of the Art of Conservation, suggested that the Brownies email their questions, and then she would have the girls in Rwanda answer via the Art of Conservation blog.

The 7- and 8-year-old girls questions were straightforward: “Why would someone want to hurt a mountain gorilla?” was the most commonly asked question. Followed by, “Have any of the girls in Rwanda ever seen a mountain gorilla up close?” They also wanted to know what it was like to live in a place that could top Santa Barbara in the exotic and extreme.

The correspondence between the girls is inspiring and recorded on their blogs, found on AoC’s website by clicking here. Art of Conservation runs education programs for children in rural communities bordering Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and allowed for the opportunity to open up conversation between two groups of diverse kids striving for the same goals.

Art of Conservation is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization operating in Rwanda that promotes conservation through educating and empowering communities. Art of Conservation provides innovative conservation and health education that directly affects the critically endangered mountain gorilla. AoC’s educational model encourages students to use creativity to build life skills and gain reverence for themselves, their community and the world. AoC also develops and supports local income-generating initiatives for adults that create sustainable growth.

The Santa Barbara Zoo gave the Brownies a behind-the-scenes tour of the lowland gorillas, and through its local programs and camps had educated many of the girls in the Brownie Troop before in some capacity. They also partner with a company called Eco-Cell. The zoo collects old cell phones and sends them to Eco-Cell, where they are refurbished and sold domestically and abroad. The money raised by the sale of these cell phones is used to fund the position of eco-guards in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These employees patrol and monitor the habitat of the Western lowland gorillas, and are an integral part in reducing the amount of poaching in these areas.

Brownie Troop 30505, led by co-leaders Mary Elliott and Liz Venegas, made friends and earned badges, but more importantly they learned that there is a connection in this world from our own Channel Islands, to the forests of Rwanda, and they can be empowered to help change the dwindling number of 880 mountain gorillas (just as much as the children living there). For if not for our children and their guardianship over Earth’s great treasures, these great animals, much like our whales, will go the way of extinction.

— Mary Elliott is a co-leader for Brownie Troop 50305.

Take Me To The Zoo

From Julie Ghrist

When I was child my mom and dad took my brother, sisters, and I to the Blank Park Zoo. We loved learning about the animals, meeting the zoo keepers, and taking rides on the childrens train. While growing up, I witnessed this small zoo in Des Moines, Iowa growing up too. I observed the generosity of civic leaders dedicated to developing it into a city landmark attracting both its residents as well as visitors. The zoo has always had an unusually strong base of volunteers too. Through my parents, I had my first look at the process of raising money for causes one feels strongly about. They got me involved in a capital campaign years ago. I painted zoo animals on the top rung of a picnic bench. Donors who pledged a certain amount received a bench.

As our world gets smaller and people infiltrate nearly every corner of the globe habitat lose for wild animals is shrinking. Blank Park Zoo remains vigilant and active in conservation. Art of Conservation recently received bags and bags of donated items from the zoo’s organized donation drive. Caring people donated all kinds of things that AoC is so thankful to be able to use in our classrooms.

Donations from Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, IowaAoC uses donated items received from Blank Park Zoo in our Rwandan classrooms.

Experimenting with color, we use the variety of craft materials donated from the zoo.

Donations from Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, IAExploring how color makes us feel, this young boy has fun with green felt.

It’s going to take more time for my team and I to thoughtfully give out all of the wonderful gifts from BPZ – shirts, paper, yarn – but each and every thing is greatly appreciated.

Volunteering at Blank Park ZooHere I am years ago at Blank Park Zoo after painting animals on the top rung of picinic benches for one of their fundraising events.

So as you can see, Blank Park Zoo not only nurtures the love of animals it is also an establishment that time and time again has proven to bring out the best in the human spirit – a place where people work together in making the world a healthier place for people and animals.

Thank you again Blank Park Zoo!