Tag Archives: Art of Conservation (AoC)

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.

Mongabay.com 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!

Screening of AoC’s World Premiere Short Film TODAY at WCFF

From Julie

I’m pleased to announce the screening of Art of Conservation’s World Premiere short film today, 15 October 2013, at the New York Wildlife Conservation Film Festival. This film was made to share with the public the successful work Art of Conservation has been carrying out in Rwanda for over seven years, as well as highlight our present expansion with new initiatives in Guyana, Panama, and other locations this year.

Please click here to get your New York Wildlife Conservation Film Festival tickets.

AoC’s short film will be on view at the Open Reception & Fundraiser tonight at Friars Club, 57 East 55th Street, NYC.

This link gives you the festivals full schedule and the list of the fabulous speakers including one of my favorites, Oceanographer, Dr. Sylvia Earle.


A special thanks to Andrew Walmsley, Cheryl Stockton, Allison Hanes, and Adrian Elliot who put this film together as the AoC Rwanda team (Valerie, Eric, Innocent, Olivier, & Eusebe) and I did what we do trying to save species.

Another thank you to the entire New York Wildlife Conservation Film Festival for squeezing us in at the last moment! Best of luck with this years festival.

Don’t forget to purchase your AoC Exhibition & Fundraiser tickets for 22 Nov 2013 at Pratt Institute Manhanttan today!

For more information and ways to get involved with AoC please email [email protected]

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!”

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

Sports for Gorillas In Rwanda Is Great Thanks To John Terpkosh/NJTL

From Julie Ghrist

Art of Conservation recently received a remarkable gift of $1000 from National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) of Des Moines thanks to our supporter John Terpkosh.

Thank you John Terpkosh! Art of Conservation 2013Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club’s Coach Rachid installs a new tennis net thanks to NJTL.

Olivier Habimana, the president of Musanze District’s Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club, immediately put the generous grant money to the purchase and installation of a much needed new net. Funds left over has been allocated to the clubs monthly maintenance of water and electricity fees.

Thank you John for your continued support. I know first-hand how your goodness has benefited many individuals and communities.

Connecting With Friends & Colleagues at Zoos & Aquariums Committing to Conservation Conference

From Julie Ghrist

A few weeks ago Blank Park Zoo hosted the 2013 Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation (ZACC) conference. The conference offered four days of presentations from people all over the world. I was pleased to have the opportunity to present an Art of Conservation poster entitled Evaluating the Impact of Conservation & Health Education Bordering Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.

John Lukas at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013John Lukas spoke about the serious work being done to save the okapi. I particularly loved this slide of his presentation… Education is the basis of Conservation.

One of the keynote speakers, President of Okapi Conservation Project in Epulu, Democratic Republic of Congo John Lukas, shared the dire situation of the okapi. Wars, illegal activity, and poor roads are a few of the obstacles facing his team in Epulu.

Martha & Julie at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Houston Zoo’s Martha Parker and I with AoC’s poster.

Martha Parker, from Houston Zoo and AoC Board Member along with Allison Hanes, Cheryl Stockton, and Andrew Walmsley helped me in all kinds of ways putting together the poster. It took time but was worth it. Thanks guys!

I’d like to thank Mark Vukovich, President & CEO of Blank Park Zoo and ZACC’s Steering Committee for putting on this great conference. Please enjoy the photos below. I wish I had pics of everyone… but it was a big crowd!

Regina Pfistermuller, Zoo Vienna at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Regina Pfistermuller from Zoo Vienna presents Flying with the Northern Bald Ibis: The adventure story of a conservation project. Is the bald ibis the ugliest of all rare birds? Perhaps not so pretty but worth saving!

Snow leopard at the market place ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Beautiful handmade work on sale from The Snow Leopard Trust at ZACC’s Marketplace.

Edward Lewis at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Dr. Edward Louis, Jr. from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium gave a great talk about incentivizing community-based reforestation efforts in Madagascar. Look closely, that’s him in the book he is holding along with Russell Mittermeier and lemurs. Love those lemurs and so thankful I have had a chance to see them in the wild in Madagascar.

Peter Riger hosting ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Peter Riger, an AoC hero because he believed in AoC’s work in the first years and has been a supporter, holds a piece of paper with vegetarian on it.

Bengt Holst at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Bengt Holst of Copenhagen Zoo presented one of the most provocative talks regarding the palm companies in Borneo and Sumatra. He and his colleagues are advising with a major palm production company to teach and insist on better practices, hence saving the orangutan and other species from extinction.

Frands Carlsen at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Bengt Holst’s colleague, Frands Carlsen, of Zoo Copenhagen supporting important conservation work in SE Asia.

Miriam & Alejandro at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Miriam Monterroso and Alejandro Morales from Arcas gave us news on their great conservation work in Guatemala. Please expect a visit from me soon!

With Joel Sartore at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Joel Sartore, another keynote speaker, is the founder of The Photo Ark, a multi-year documentary project to save species and habitat. My niece Lizzy and her friend Riley are pictured to the right of Mr. Sartore. RARE is a beautiful book and his stories are enthralling.

Susie at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Conservation Fusion’s Susie McGuire hands down makes learning fun. Her education work in Madagascar helps create diverse partnerships to help endangered species.

Jeff from PIC at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013A nice friend, Jeff from Partners in Conservation adds Rwanda handicrafts to the Marketplace.

Samson at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013I felt at home meeting Samson at the Ice Breaker at the Iowa State Historical Building. Samson is from Uganda and receives counsel from the wonderful Beth Kaplain from Antioch University and Rwanda”s National University. He is charged and ready to go with conservation work.

Jeff Flocken IFAW keynote ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Opening the conference was Jeff Flocken of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. When you think of the plight polar bears, lions, whales, and so many other species are facing, you got to thank Jeff for his advocation for animals. Please continue Jeff.

Again, thank you Blank Park Zoo for hosting this great conference and to ZACC’s Steering Committee.

Extra Fun Classes

From Julie Ghrist

What an exciting bunch of classes we’ve had recently. Having Allison, Cheryl, and Andrew with us in Rwanda has been the best too! Along with all of the work we are doing at the office time together in the field has been excellent. It means a lot to the team and I to have them with us plus they are taking tons of photos.

New t-shirts! Art of Conservation 2013I explain to the children that the artwork on the t-shirts was created by former AoC students.

Annually, our students receive AoC t-shirts. As you would imagine, they were happy to receive their very own.

Putting on t-shirts. Art of Conservation 2013Allison and Olivier help the children put on their new shirts.

The children also receive their decorated envelopes containing worksheets and artwork they’ve been producing in our classes.

Art of Conservation Rwanda 2013Student Innocent proudly shows his envelope and birdhouse he will soon be hanging in the school woodlot.

Decorated envelopes returned. Art of Conservation 2013Samuel shows us his worksheet from an exercise in decorative line drawing.

More fun class activities coming up.

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

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Preparations for 2013 children’s performances at Art of Conservation

Saving Gorillas Through Educating and Empowering Communities

From Julie
From Julie

Back to school! This week my team and I return to the field every morning to teach darling Rwandan children how to better care for themselves, their community, and the environment. Every morning we pack our truck at the AoC office with fantastic learning materials and travel up towards the Volcanoes National Park.

Class #1 for 2013 Art of Conservation, RwandaA photo of students taking our pre-questionnaire. Doesn’t quite seem fair to quiz the kids on their conservation & health knowledge at our first class meeting, but these questionnaires help measure our teaching skills and the childrens understanding.

Art of Conservation annually provides 200 children – 10 to 16 years of age – living in rural communities bordering Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park with over 20,000 hours of comprehensive conservation and health education. Additionally, AoC conducts workshops one Friday and one Saturday per month.

Class #1 for 2013 Art of Conservation, RwandaOur first session together sets the stage to a safe and nurturing learning environment. These girls celebrate at the end of todays lesson.

Our conservation lessons focus on the importance of protecting the health and stability of the local ecosystem, with special emphasis on the critically endangered mountain gorilla. AoC’s health and personal care classes help students learn to lessen the instances of human illness being transmitted to the gorilla population by people living in and near the national park.

Please stay with us and better get to know the team, our new teachers-in-training, students, and their families.

Act Now—Before Earth Day!

AoC Student Wearing Animal VisorLooking for a special way to give back this Earth Day? Art of Conservation (AoC) is excited to announce a new partnership with Wet Paint, an independently owned art supply store based in Minnesota, to help you make a bigger difference—just in time for Earth Day.

Wet Paint has generously offered to match all art supply donations dollar-for-dollar from our wish list on their website!

Your tax-deductible contribution right now will double in value to help us strengthen conservation and health messaging through the arts for children attending primary schools bordering Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.

Just think—if you could donate $50 worth of arts supplies, then Wet Paint will contribute another $50—for a total of $100, multiplying the effect of your commitment to educating children and inspiring creative young minds.

Please help us reap the full benefit of this generous offer from Wet Paint—donate art supplies today! Make your tax-deductible gift of art supplies before Earth Day and see your generosity doubled!

AoC provides a safe and fun learning environment for students to discover and explore their world through hands-on activities. Every lesson we teach ends with an art project. Students are introduced to different forms of artistic expression, such as drawing and painting, among other hands-on activities, to strengthen understanding of concepts in conservation and health.

Our art projects incorporate themes such as drawing perspective, 3D shapes and shadowing, color effect, positive and negative space, mirror images, and more. Some examples of our students’ art projects include decorating rainforest animal visors, drawing and painting rainforest animals, making colorful tissue paper and paper mache mountain gorillas, creating conservation campaign posters, and much more!

AoC students are also given exciting opportunities to express themselves through music, song, and dance. They perform to heartening songs with conservation messages, using props and wearing colorful animal masks made by staff artists in the AoC studio. Staff artists also paint colorful conservation murals at the schools where the AoC works to further reinforce our messages.

There is no better time than right now to make a donation because it will be matched 100% by Wet Paint—that means your gift will go twice as far to help us in our efforts to nurture creativity through art projects and inspire new generations of conservation and health ambassadors.

Make your gift count for Earth Day—donate art supplies by this Sunday, April 22nd and help us take full advantage of this matching gift opportunity from Wet Paint. Together, we can empower the future leaders of Rwanda to protect their natural resources and mountain gorillas for generations to come!

Thank you sincerely for your support of our important conservation work in Rwanda.