Tag Archives: forest

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!

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An Animals Place in a Rainforest

By Olivier
Our students live next to a very important rainforest, but they have not learned much about it. Now, AoC teachers are ready to help the children identify different animals living in a rainforest and understand the importance of the ecosystem for both people and animals. Students begin by learning the layers of a rainforest, such as the forest floor, understory, canopy, and emergent layer.

Examining animal and plant cards. Art of Conservation 2012Students learn and have fun providing local names of animals on their cards. They recognize many of them like this “umutubu” or frog and “inyoni” or bird.

Once we have explored the different layers of a rainforest it’s time to discuss where a particular animal or plant species is most often found. We ask ourselves why is a certain animal best suited for life in the canopy while another loves to move about in the understory. Students go ahead and tape their animal cards in its appropriate forest layer.

Layers of a rainforest lesson. Art of Conservation 2012Students place their plant or animal card in the most appropriate layer of the forest.

Basic Essentials For Survival

Hi, it’s Valerie. We continue our lessons by focusing on what most organisms need to survive. In general, most organisms need oxygen, water, food, and a protected environment. While preparing for this lesson at the office, we created images illustrating that you, me, birds, gorillas, flowers are all organisms. After gluing these images into their AoC notebooks, students listen to our story about how all living things are connected. It really goes like a story, you know. We explain that people are not the only organisms that need oxygen, water, food, and a protected environment to survive, but all living things need basic essentials to thrive on Earth. And when one part of the equation is disrupted, it may have a fatalistic impact on other part.

Innocent teaching about what most organisms need to survive.  Art of Conservation 2012We encourage our students to practice English by reading new vocabulary words of the day. Innocent presents ‘a protected environment’ card in both English and Kinyarwanda for a volunteer to read and put on our grass mat serving as a word wall, which the kids all enjoy doing!

AoC student at the chalkboard.  Art of Conservation 2012Students learn the four things that most organisms need to survive.

Next we teach the children that the critically endangered mountain gorilla and people are approximately 98% genetically similar and disease transmission between the two is probable. To help get the point across of why we need to stay healthy, another image is glued into the notebooks showing mountain gorillas in their natural habitat and another photo of a bunch of former AoC students at park headquarters after last year’s 3K Gorilla Fun Run. Lots of kids, so few gorillas! We need to take action!

Images in notebooks.  Art of Conservation 2012A student studying the images he just glued into his notebook.

Our last image for discussion further illustrates the story, at least in part, how all living things are connected. We begin with photos of people, followed by domesticated animals, then wild animals, natural habitat such as forests, trees which produce the air we breathe, pictures of our briquettes as an alternative to cutting down trees for our cooking fuel needs, medicinal properties yet to be discovered, the simple fact of natural beauty, as well as tourism which creates jobs and brings in foreign revenue to help construct schools, and the process of learning and obtaining knowledge. How’s that for a quick tour of some of our connections with other living things?

The children are really following and concentrating. This tells me they are interested in what they are learning. They are discovering that people are not the only organisms that need food, oxygen, water, and a protected environment to survive, but also other living things, i.e. organisms.

More coming soon.

Honored by Visitors With A Pledge of Marketing Support

Honorable Minister François Kanimba’s delegation visits Cecile’s Save The Forests Briquette Initiative.

Innocent here with ongoing good news about our alternative fuel technology initiative. Cecile and the Save The Forests Briquette Initiative keep making headlines – this time with the recent visit from a delegation from the Rwandan Ministry of Trade and Industry led by Honorable Minister François Kanimba. Wow! Cecile couldn’t believe her eyes and ears! What a big honor!

VIP's to Save The Forests Briquette Initiative.  AoC 2011Cecile briefing Minister Kanimba’s delegation including the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s Permanent Secretary, the Mayor of Musanze District, and many other VIPs on the background and start up of Save The Forests Briquette Initiative.

It turned out that the Rwandan Ministry of Trade and Industry in collaboration with other institutions including the National Institute of Statistics and the Private Sector Federation recently conducted a survey countrywide on the statistics of small and medium enterprises across all districts of Rwanda. Musanze District, where AoC and Save The Forests Briquette Initiative operate, was ranked second after Kigali City. (Kigali in the capital city of Rwanda.) This survey was part of the program referred as “Hanga Umurimo”, loosely in English, “Create a job”. Given that Musanze District is located in a remote area as compared with Kigali, this countywide ministerial tour of small and medium enterprises started out with Musanze District, and that’s how Cecile and Save The Forests Briquette Initiative was visited the first!

VIP's to Save The Forests Briquette Initiative.  AoC 2011Cecile offering a demonstration at the briquette press to the Honorable Minister’s delegation and journalists.

Cecile and her visitors’ dialogue was quite amazing. As she usually does for all visitors, Cecile explained she was immediately interested in the briquette initiative when Art of Conservation first approached her with the idea and opportunity to train in this new technology. She shares that her main reason of interest was to save Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park rainforest, home to the critically endangered mountain gorilla, and to make some money for her family to live on.

She was definitely ready to leave her former occupation of selling charcoal far behind! Cecile and I both remember those days how Julie always stopped the truck when passing Cecile on the Kinigi Road with the heavy sack of dirty charcoal on her head and would ask Cecile, “What else can we do? We need to find an alternative and get you out of this charcoal trade.”

VIP's to Save The Forests Briquette Initiative.  AoC 2011Cecile giving an interview to journalists as she demonstrates to the ministerial delegation how briquettes are very efficient especially when used with the proper stove… this stove, by the way, is given to a new customer for FREE with their first purchase of a sack of briquettes!

Cecile also shared with the inquisitive crowd the challenges of marketing, being her biggest challenge. Minister Kanimba pledged support on that issue through Musanze District leaders. We hope this will enable her to keep up her great work of saving the forests, protecting habitat to the critically endangered mountain gorilla, make MORE money, keep being a role model not only at sector, district, or provincial level, but also at national and international level. Congratulations Cecile!

Stealing Potatoes: Children’s Human/Wildlife Conflict Solutions on Paper

We all know that wild animals inside Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park do not necessarily comply with border laws be it passing over to the Congo side or to the Uganda side of The Virunga Massif let alone allowing their curiosities to stimulate them over the park boundary walls where they meet the dangers of the human population.

To teach a lesson about how people and animals can live side by side we ask the children, our students, what they do when Golden Monkeys are in the cultivated fields outside of the park. The team and I know only too well that mayhem ensues more time than not in such situations. The very classroom we teach in twice per week at Rushubi School is where earlier in the year a Golden Monkey sought refuge after getting frightened and disoriented as masses of children stampeded and threw rocks at him/her. The Golden Monkey survived after no less than two calls to the park service and the Gorilla Vets, but much time was wasted and lessons definitely not learned.

Farmland/national park.  Art of Conservation 2011The dividing line between the national park and farmland.

We’ve been told that a designated person in each village is responsible for reporting wild animals outside of the park. We suggest to the children to seek out this person first, but no matter what, protect themselves and the animal by not attacking, scaring, or teasing the animal. To truly get this lesson to resonant, we ask the children to illustrate what they will do next time a wild animal is outside of the park. Please enjoy their pictures.

Shoo, stop stealing our potatoes.  Art of Conservation 2011.

Hey local leader.  Art of Conservation 2011

Go back to the forest.  Art of Conservation 2011.

It's how the song goes.  Art of Conservation 2011

Golden Monkeys In Art: Have You Ever Seen So Many?

Known to the children as inkima, the endangered Golden Monkey is still found in Rwanda’s national parks especially right here at Volcanoes National Park. When asked about monkey folklore, the children gave the team and me a good laugh by sharing the story of how pregnant women in Rwanda refrain from laughing at golden monkeys fearing to give birth to a baby with a face similar to a golden monkey’s.
Golden Monkeys by children at Art of Conservation 2011.Golden Monkeys 1, drawings by AoC students.

The children also relate that when they collect firewood they see Golden Monkeys leaping from tree to tree. They say this is lots of fun. Our talk then turns toward this primate’s current population status, characteristics, recognition, distribution, habitat, and behavior. Many visuals and masks are passed around the classroom.

Painting Golden Monkeys by Art of Conservation 2011.To draw a Golden Monkey one must really get into the feeling of being a Golden Monkey, or something like that!

We ask the children what they believe are the threats to Golden Monkeys and their habitat. Most of them agree that illegal activity in the forest such as cutting down bamboo and trees and setting snares are big problems for the monkeys. We add that people are putting great pressure on natural resources which forces natural spaces to disappear. Plus dog owners who let their animals roam freely at night surely allow them to enter the forest and hunt and why not a tasty little inkima as their next meal?

Golden Monkeys 2 by Art of Conservation students. 2011Golden Monkeys 2, drawings by AoC students.

AoC students follow Eric.  2011Now the fun part, students are guided by Eric and Eusebe and make pictures of Golden Monkeys. Eric is shown above.

Golden Monkeys 3.  Pictures by children at Art of Conservation 2011Golden Monkeys 3, drawings by AoC students.

Now that’s a lot of Golden Monkey! All created by Rwandan children between the ages of 10 to 15. These children are living right next to the park border and we are doing our best to educate them about the environment and nurture their compassion to protect it!

Drawing a golden monkey.  AoC 2011AoC student concentrating on his work.

Video: Do NOT Destroy My Home

Art of Conservation students illustrate pictures of people cutting trees and hauling wood out of the forest… this forest is home to the critically endangered mountain gorillas. Please watch our video below.
embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt

The Making of Heroes of the Forest (A Song & Dance for all Animals)

Similar to our last blog, The Making of Mu Birunga (A Song and Dance for Gorillas), today’s video again takes you inside the classroom when we first introduced our students to Courtney and Benjamin’s song they wrote for our project called Heroes of the Forest. The video concludes showing months of practice and the arrival of the children-filled bus at Igitaramo for our recent performances celebrating World Environment Day.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/Yu6FB9BSEIE" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
The Making of Heroes of the Forest, a video.

Background
Students participating in Art of Conservation’s (AoC) conservation education program performed two song and dance pieces celebrating animals and Volcanoes National Park at Igitaramo, a large community party held the day before Kwita Izina, Rwanda’s annual Mountain Gorilla Naming Ceremony.

AoC choreographed the performances for their two groups of 50 fifth-form students selected from the two schools where it operates, Rushubi and Nyange I primary schools. Each group of students sang a heartening song, written by the New York-based band Kaiser Cartel, which was commissioned by AoC, and perform a dance wearing colorful masks made by AoC staff artists.

Children from Rushubi performed “Mu Birunga,” or “In Virunga,” a song about the mountain gorillas that live in Volcanoes National Park. Students from Nyange I performed “Heroes of the Forest,” a song about conserving the many different animals that inhabit Volcanoes National Park, including forest buffaloes, golden monkeys, giant-pouched rats, elephants, and others.

The Making of Mu Birunga (A Song & Dance for Gorillas)

Our video takes you inside the classroom when we first introduced our students to Kaiser Cartel’s song called Mu Birunga / In Virunga. The video concludes showing months of practice and the arrival of the children-filled bus at Igitaramo for our recent performances celebrating World Environment Day.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/WRNSkgecbOQ" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Here is The Making of Mu Birunga, a video.

Background
Students participating in Art of Conservation’s (AoC) conservation education program performed two song and dance pieces celebrating animals and Volcanoes National Park at Igitaramo, a large community party held the day before Kwita Izina, Rwanda’s annual Mountain Gorilla Naming Ceremony.

AoC choreographed the performances for their two groups of 50 fifth-form students selected from the two schools where it operates, Rushubi and Nyange I primary schools. Each group of students sang a heartening song, written by the New York-based band Kaiser Cartel, which was commissioned by AoC, and perform a dance wearing colorful masks made by AoC staff artists.

Children from Rushubi performed “Mu Birunga,” or “In Virunga,” a song about the mountain gorillas that live in Volcanoes National Park. Students from Nyange I performed “Heroes of the Forest,” a song about conserving the many different animals that inhabit Volcanoes National Park, including forest buffaloes, golden monkeys, giant-pouched rats, elephants, and others.

Who are YOUR Heroes of the Forest?

For the Art of Conservation Team and New York musicians Courtney Kaiser and Benjamin Cartel, heroes of the forest are the endangered mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, forest buffaloes, turacos, giant pouched rats – throw in a few savanna mammals such as lions and elephants – and on top of all that add the young schoolchildren living on the border of the national park where most of the animals live and there you have it….beautiful Heroes of the Forest.

After a somewhat grueling past few weeks of bureaucratic matters and challenges, the team and I ended the week with a bang. We’ve been on break from the classroom during the 3 week national genocide memorial observance and the transition from 1st term to the 2nd term. Today we prepared lessons and finally broke out the papier mache masks Eric has diligently been working on and listened to Kaiser Cartel’s song Heroes of the Forest – straight out of the recording studio and received via email this morning.

Artist Eric as the lion. AoC House 2010Eric, the creator behind the papier mache masks, is a simba.

My head is swimming with ideas for putting the song to a performance piece which our students will learn and practice in the weeks to come and then perform at the upcoming Igitaramo, a community party preceding Rwanda’s Annual Gorilla Naming Ceremony known as Kwita Izina.

Mugabe the endangered Golden Monkey. AoC House Rwanda 2010AoC staff member Mugabe makes a great golden monkey.

Phocas as the Forest Buffalo with Ibyiza in the background. AoC House 2010Another AoC staff member, Phocas, is a brilliant forest buffalo. My dog Ibyiza is not so sure.

Olivier, Mugabe, Innocent and dogs listen to Heroes of the Forest. AoC House 2010Olivier poses as a giant pouched rat and Innocent, a turaco.

Valerie poses as a mountain gorilla. AoC House 2010Valerie poses as a very animated mountain gorilla.

So you are probably waiting to actually hear Heroes of the Forest. It’s a good one….please stay tuned!