Tag Archives: Dian Fossey

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!

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Tribute to Dian Fossey – On Paper

From Eusebe
Hello, welcome to a world of color and creativity. Who can stop being surprised when looking at what our students produce? After Valerie’s discussion introducing the children to the famous Dian Fossey who founded the Karisoke Research Center in 1967, I ask our students to use their imagination and illustrate a picture of Dian Fossey in the forest with the gorillas she loved so dearly. They are to include the tools researchers need, such as a pencil, notepad, and binoculars. I like that even though we guided the kids with the basic format of the drawing each came out with different expressions.

It looks like it is early in the morning when Dian Fossey is between Karisimbi and Bisoke mountains studying a mountain gorilla while it is playing in a tree.

A student draws Dian Fossey with the sun shining through bamboo, flowers blooming, trees and grasses growing…. looks like a healthy environment.

And here is another great picture from a student.

How great that these children are so creative!! They express their feelings and their imagination very well. Stay in touch.

David Attenborough’s Love of Nature & Wildlife Inspires Our Students

Hi readers! Valerie here again.
We already know that our students who live next to Volcanoes National Park have heard about the mountain gorillas and other animals in the same ecosystem. But there is no doubt in my mind that they need to know about other species living elsewhere in the world. This is why we selected from our office library sections from nature films including those narrated by Sir David Attenborough such as BBC’s The Life of Mammals, The Blue Planet, and Life in the Undergrowth, to name a few, to share with our students. By doing this, we are preparing the children for our upcoming lessons focusing on animals and their environment. After setting up the generator (remember, the classrooms are without electricity), the projector, and the laptop we make sure all of the windows were covered with grass mats and banners before we start the nature films!

Ah, David Attenborough, in the classroom, well sort of.  AoC film day. 2011Inside Rushubi School classroom watching David Attenborough in action.

Mr. Attenborough is one of the most widely known natural history film makers. I am amazed by the amount of time he has spent observing animals in their natural habitat and writing about them.

The Great Migration. AoC film day. 2011Our students pay much attention watching scenes of The Great Migration.

Wildebeest, zebras, and predators including lions excite the children during a segment showing The Great Migration. Students exclaim in Kinyarwanda: ‘Yen …..Yen …Reba .. Ambaaaa’. In English it’s as though shouting, ‘Wow, wow, look, wow!’ These children have never travelled outside their country to see other wildlife in their natural habitat. So, do not be surprised to hear their amazement through laughter and shouts.

Madagascar-lemurs.  AoC film day. 2011Lemurs of Madagascar in this section of nature films!

Still more ooohs and aaaahs coming from our students watching amazing animals in their natural habitats. During out recent geography lesson, Julie told the kids about lemurs while pointing out Madagascar on the map. While children watched lemurs, specifically the Verreaux’s sifaka, climbing, leaping, and running the whole class was noisy! We reminded the kids that lemurs are found only in Madagascar just as mountain gorillas are only found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the Virunga Massif.

Film showing the original Karisoke Research Centre of Dian Fossey. AoC 2011Showing a film on Dian Fossey and the mountain gorillas. Children see here one of the cabins of the famed Dian Fossey Karisoke Research Center located in between Karisimbi and Bisoke Volcanoes.

We also thought it is very important to show the kids a movie of Dian Fossey who devoted her time, love and effort to the mountain gorillas until she even lost her life defending them. The children were able to see where her site used to be and through comments and discussion they know about Dian Fossey and how great she has contributed to the mountain gorillas’ survival. We again remind our students of the limited habitat of the mountain gorillas: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Virunga Massif. (Click here for my previous geography blog.) (And here for Innocent’s blog on his visit to the original Karisoke Research Centre.)

IMAX movie of mountain gorillas. AoC 2011This film shows a mountain gorilla family in their natural habitat.

Of course we could not end our day of films without showing a movie of mountain gorillas. While watching the gorillas the students shouted again and again with happiness. They love them and they sometimes ask us when they should go see them in Volcanoes National Park. The answer is that they do not have all conditions in order to visit them. To visit mountain gorillas in their natural habitat you must be over 15 years of age. Then the students say: Ohooooo!

At the closing of our lesson we asked the students which movie they liked a lot and why? Most of them said, “Gorillas! I saw the juvenile mountain gorillas playing and I was happy!” one student answered.

Thanks to inspirational work of Attenborough and others, our students know now that not only mountain gorillas exist as animals that need protection but also there are other types of animals elsewhere on the world of different size, color and behavior that need care too. Our students did not want us to finish up the movie show. Hopefully, we will give them another chance to watch other nature films for them to keep exploring the world and amazing creatures that live on Planet Earth!

Dian Fossey Site: The Cemetery

Hi. Innocent here once again with my final blog on our recent visit to the famed Dian Fossey Karisoke Research Centre site located in the saddle of Karisimbi and Bisoke Volcanoes.

I dedicated time for contemplation once I reached Dian Fossey’s tomb and seeing her beloved gorillas, Digit, Uncle Bert, Puck, Titus, Effie, Beetsme, and more, buried near to her.

Following a path to Dian Fossey's grave site and gorilla cemetery.  AoC 2011Olivier and I pictured here walking up the path to the gorilla cemetery and Dian Fossey’s tomb.

As an AoC teacher, this visit was an inspirational experience because Dian Fossey is a pioneer of mountain gorilla research and a role model of all conservationists. My trek in the forest was also a great opportunity to learn much more about the natural resources of Volcanoes National Park such as the animals, trees, plants, and birds.

Dian Fossey's grave site.  Amy, Innocent, Olivier, Eusebe, and Eric.  AoC 2011Amy, myself, Olivier, Eusebe, and Eric paying tribute to Dian Fossey.

Here I quote my colleague Eusebe, “Our visit was very interesting for everybody who wants to relax and learn a lot. It was wonderful to pass by old tall trees like hagenia abyssinica and listen to birds’ songs in their natural habitat. The most outstanding lesson from this hike is being committed to my job as Dian Fossey was to hers.”

Puck's burial marker at Karisoki in The Virungas. Art of Conservation 2011Puck, one of the gorillas resting nearby Dian Fossey.

And here is a quote from Olivier, “Commitment is the source of success. Dian Fossey did a great job to protect mountain gorillas and has left an unforgettable example to good-hearted people, we miss her everlastingly.”

Finally, Eric’s quote, “I did not know I could hike for about five hours without being tired out of being marveled at wonderful sites, fauna, and flora. I really cannot say how wonderful the hike was; we were able to see dying and live trees with epiphytes, we could also feel a nice breeze from the inside of the forest, I felt like we were in a different and wonderful country. I was also impressed by the teamwork spirit which was amongst all of us: tourists, guides, soldiers, porters, and local community members.”

Mt. Karisimbi.  Highest in the volcano chain of The Virungas.  AoC 2011Mt. Karisimbi as seen as we begin descending from the Dian Fossey site.

I, indeed respect Dian Fossey’s work simply because it is just great! According to her, “When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future.” As far as the AoC classes are concerned, we teach our students why it is important to protect our environment and how. And about their health so that they can have a great future. We hope this inspires them in making good decisions for their future and hence preserve the environment for their children and the endangered mountain gorillas. We tell them that their good health is important for the survival of mountain gorillas.

Dian Fossey Site: The Destruction of Wars

Hi. This is Innocent again with more on my recent visit to the Dian Fossey site. For Team AoC and I, our trek to this historic place in Volcanoes National Park is timely as we are now preparing lessons that will focus more and more on the flora, fauna, and those who have played a pivotal role in protecting this forest.

Innocent & Guide Felix at the remains of Karisoki Workers' House.  AoC 2011Once we reached Karisoke Research Center’s earliest site and marveled at the beauty of the natural surroundings we were struck by seeing only the remnants of buildings. Guide Felix told us they were destroyed during the 1994 war! Here I am with Felix at the Karisoke Research Centre Staff House.

In our forthcoming classes, we will ask our students to share folklore they’ve heard from their elders regarding Dian Fossey and the gorillas she loved so much. We have come to realize thus far, that Dian Fossey – the mountain gorilla conservation pioneer – is undeniably deeply integrated in local legends. Proof comes in many forms, such as names Dian Fossey is referred to. For instance, Nyiramacibiri (in Kinyrwanda) meaning “the woman who lives alone on the mountain” and Mukecuru meaning “the old woman.” This is only a start, much more wonderful lore abounds.

Dian Fossey's original cabin as seen in early National Geographic articles.  AoC 2011.Eric, Julie, Olivier, Eusebe, and I standing at the site of Dian Fossey’s original cabin as seen in early National Geographic articles. As you can see, only the crumbling foundation is preserved.

During our hike, I wanted to know why Dian Fossey was buried inside the forest and not in her town of birth, San Francisco, California. Felix, our RDB guide, told me that someone came across a written document by Dian Fossey after her 1985 murder which stated her wishes to be buried in the forest next to her beloved Digit, her favorite gorilla who had been killed by poachers.

Olivier, Amy, Innocent, & Eric at Dian Fossey's cabin (She affectionately named it the "Mausoleum")Olivier, Amy, Eric and I standing at the remnants of Dian Fossey’s cabin she affectionately called The Mausoleum.

Being at this site together with my team and hearing testimonies from others allows me to better understand Dian Fossey’s statement, “I feel more comfortable with gorillas than people.” Honoring this opportunity to ‘walk in her footsteps’ I grow every more respectful and amazed by this tremendous woman.

I will keep informing you about this wonderful visit in an upcoming blog. Please stay tuned.

Dian Fossey Site: The Hike

Innocent here. Recently, Team AoC and I visited the historic Karisoke Research Center founded by Dian Fossey in 1967. This site is located in the saddle between volcanoes Karisimbi and Bisoke in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.
Innocent beginning the hike to Dian Fossey site in The Virunga Massif. AoC 2011After registering and paying for our permits at the park and tourism headquarters in Kinigi, we drive to our drop off point at the foothills of Bisoke. I am here with children we meet along the way before we reach the forest.

Bisoke is 3711 meters in altitude with a beautiful crater lake at the top. We will follow our guide Felix Shyamba to the west of Bisoke up through local villages and cultivated farm land before we reach the protected forest.

Pyrethrum drying in the sun.  AoC 2011 near The Virungas.This is a picture of the Chrysanthemum plant drying on a plastic mat in front of a small house we pass by on our way to the park.

Much of the park land was turned over to pyrethrum farms. Pyrethrum is the extract from the flowerhead of the Chrysanthemum plant (looks like a daisy) which is processed to kill insects. Dian Fossey campaigned hard to stop the deforestation caused by such farms.

Porter Betty, Amy, and Eusebe making the ascent to the Dian Fossey Site. AoC 2011Our hired porter, Betty, with Amy and Eusebe.

The photograph above of my colleagues and porter Betty is a good example of the Chrysanthemum plant as well as rows of Irish potatoes. No doubt these are pretty fields with cattle often seen out on their short grazing break, but it is also very apparent that these fields are pressing ever harder up to the park boundary.

Innocent & Eusebe on top of the buffalo wall entering Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.  AoC 2011Eusebe and I are on top of the ‘Buffalo Wall’. We are now entering the forest!

After a beautiful hike, we reach the mid-way point. Veering in one direction one would make their way up to Bisoki Crater Lake, but wanting to stay on goal we took the other fork in the path and continued our trek to the renowned Dian Fossey Site at 2967 meters in altitude.

At 2967 meters. Dian Fossey Site in The Virungas.  Team AoC. 2011I am pictured here at our mid-way point with Eric, Amy, Julie, Guide Felix, Olivier, and Eusebe. Valerie, our other colleague, was unable to be with us on this day.

Please stay with me as we venture into the site of the lone woman of the forest, Dian Fossey, also known as Nyiramachabelli. Thanks and see you next time, Innocent.