Tag Archives: Gorilla Doctors

Graduating from AoC’s 2012 Education Programs

From Olivier

We celebrate during our annual End-of-the-Year Parents as Partners Open House at Nyange school. Innocent calls a child by his/her name and that student responds by saying, “Good morning, My name is …… I am an Art of Conservation graduate!” Graduates then receive their decorated envelopes that contain the works that he/she did throughout the year. It is extremely pleasant.

Valerie gives the graduates their envelopes.

Students are thrilled to look again at their work and proudly show them to their parents or guardians. Our guests take this opportunity to see how children gradually developed from the beginning and how amazing they are now with their inspirational works containing good messages for the entire world. Children are calling the community to contribute in protecting Volcanoes National Park where mountain gorilla and a diversity of other animals live.

Guests include Nyange schools headmaster, a Rwanda Environment Management Authority representative, Musanze District’s Joint Action Development Forum’s president, Nyange school’s deputy principal, and more.

To aim is not enough, you must hit! Use your mind; use your eyes and your body. Get all the education you can, but then, by nature, do something. Don’t just stand there, make something happen around you. The best of all things is to learn. Money can be lost or stolen, health and strength may fail, but what you have learned and practiced is yours forever. AoC students do it because they learned. They are acting out what they learned. They are now teachers, delivering our messages to a big crowd of people: their fathers, mothers, cousins, neighbors and local leaders. All these people get to know some of the threats to mountain gorillas and how they are treated. No more poachers in the mountain gorilla habitat! AoC students vow to expose even those who will be in the underground because they now know the importance of a healthy ecosystem.

Children perform as Gorilla Doctors – one child is a mountain gorilla doctor teaching children how to treat the critically endangered animal. So amazing! May be he will become a veterinarian.

This year’s Parents as Partners Open House is really a good opportunity for our students to celebrate and start their roles as conservation ambassadors. In acting out the AoC Staying Healthy messages, students talk about how one can get sick by letting germs enter their bodies through eyes, mouth, ears and nose. Our children, however, are committed to staying healthy and to not spreading germs at all! They will cover their mouths when they cough and sneeze, they will wash their hands, and they will try to eat a healthy diet.

A drama depicting how to stay healthy.

How can you know that something is missing if you’ve never met it or seen it? Please come and celebrate our next year’s Parents as Partners Open House at the foot of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

Gorilla Doctors Inspire AoC Students

From Innocent

The Gorilla Doctors from the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) recently came to class to share their expertise with our students. The doctors stressed that because the mountain gorilla population numbers are low, every individual matters. If the poor condition of a mountain gorilla is human induced and/or life threatening, they will intervene in most cases.

MGVP’s Dr. Jean-Felix Kinani (on left) and our student Mukeshimana Uwineza (on right) demonstrate how to successfully rescue and treat a gorilla that is caught in a snare. Our toy stuffed gorilla comes in handy for such demonstrations.

Snares are a major threat to mountain gorillas and other animals. Although poachers in Rwanda generally set snares targeting bush meat animals including antelopes, mountain gorillas are frequently caught. Occasionally a mountain gorilla can release the snare but the fear of infection setting in is serious. Also, there is a possibility of strangulation if the snare is around its neck and in the effort to get it off the animal only tightens the noose.

Eager to become Gorilla Doctors when they get older, children gather around MGVP’s Dr. Dawn Zimmerman and are marveled at her medical kit!

The Gorilla Doctors invite students to examine their equipment they bring with them into the forest for an intervention. Soon the veterinarians demonstrate darting a sick or injured animal and allow kids to try.

Rushubi students carefully watch MGVP’s Dr. Jean Bosco Noheri as he demonstrates how he prepares a syringe before darting from a distance a sick or injured gorilla with his dart gun.

We will continue to educate our students about the many different job opportunities revolving around conservation which they should strive toward. Many thanks to you, Drs. Zimmerman, Kinani, and Noheri for coming to our classes to reinforce this idea in a very practical and inspiring way.

More soon.

Cecile’s Cow and Calf Needed a Proper Shelter

Hi, Innocent here again. This time with news about the need for a proper shelter for Cecile’s cow and her calf. I am sure some of you may be asking, “What is the relationship between Cecile’s cow and calf with that of Cecile’s Save The Forests Briquette Initiative and AoC?” The answer to this great question would lie in what AoC does: AoC teaches about conservation and health to the population bordering Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, home to mountain gorillas. AoC also supports local community initiatives including Cecile’s Save The Forests Briquette Initiative.

Construction of Cecile's cow and calf shed.  Art of Conservation 2011.The cow and calf shed while under construction.

Earlier this year, Cecile and her family received a pregnant cow as a gift from the government in a program referred to as One Cow Per Poor Family. It is true that Cecile and her entire family were extremely happy about this tremendous gift but they did not have adequate animal husbandry knowledge, money to pay for local veterinarian services, nor proper housing for her expectant cow.

Construction of Cecile's cow and calf shed.  Art of Conservation 2011.Cecile checks on the shed which is almost completed. Only eating troughs need to be added.

Obviously, Cecile’s partnership with AoC stands on the Save The Forests Briquette Initiative. However, the fact that her new cow and calf had no shed and there was lots of waste generated by them which made Cecile’s living arrangement very unsanitary- even reaching her neighbors and causing conflict amongst themselves. Everyone was frustrated, but Cecile’s limited means could not allow her to do anything about it. The mismanaged waste was additionally defeating AoC’s “Staying Healthy” campaign. This combination of factors led AoC to ask Dr. Noel and Mailis from MGVP to assess the situation and receive some expert advice. The vets noted that the main problems were lack of shelter and poor husbandry. As a result, AoC took Dr. Noel and Mailis’ suggestion of first of all building proper sheltering for the cow and calf and that’s why Cecile and her family has one now!

Construction of Cecile's cow and calf shed.  Art of Conservation 2011.Bandora, Cecile’s husband, feeding the animals with grass under their newly built shed.

Construction of Cecile's cow and calf shed.  Art of Conservation 2011.Cecile’s cow and calf eating grass from their respective eating troughs.

I’m sure Cecile and her family are quite happy about the shed newly built by AoC. The manure can even be used in the briquette mixture if clients do not mind the smell! It is also my hope Cecile and her family take advantage of Dr. Noel and Mailis’ technical assistance and will continue seeking it when need be. Thanks a lot Dr. Noel and Mailis for your time and expertise.

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

I Want To Be A Gorilla Doctor, Part 2

The Gorilla Doctors stop by and talk with the children about how and why they intervene with the last surviving habituated and wild mountain gorillas in their trans-boundary habitat; Rwanda, Uganda, and DRC. Our students are deeply engaged and learn a lot from the vets.

Dr. Jan of Gorilla Doctors visit AoC classes. 2011Dr. Jan, with her medical supplies, demonstrates how she prepares for an intervention.

Role models, such as the Gorilla Doctors, have an immense impact on the kids. After recess and the doctors have packed up their bags, the children use their hearts and minds while drawing a picture of themselves as a Gorilla Doctor.

Naome's drawing.  Art of Conservation 2011Noame’s picture.

The Docs help to reiterate our staying healthy lessons by reminding the kids that gorillas and people are similar in genetic make-up and that we can share some of the same sicknesses. Therefore, local people populations help significantly in gorilla protection when they stay healthy and stop spreading germs.

Gorilla Docs visit AoC classes. September 2011Dr. Noel with a flying dart syringe.

Dr. Noel challenges the children not to follow in the footsteps of many of their neighbors who illegally harvest honey or firewood in Volcanoes National Park. Other threats include cattle grazing at night in the park, water collection during the dry season, and population pressure – all of which we have discussed with the kids at some point in our year together.

Rafiki's drawing. Art of Conservation 2011.Rafiki’s picture.

I will be pleasantly surprised when in the near future I run into former AoC students and learn that some of them have become Gorilla Doctors!

Mugabe’s First Pot of Rice over Briquettes

We continue to bring you updates on a new alternative fuel project AoC, in partnership with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, launched last month in Musanze District.

Recently we brought home our first locally made stoves and cooked up a pot of rice. To our great happiness, AoC staff member, Mugabe, prepared a pot of rice which produced relatively little smoke and in a short amount of time. Habibo, our sweet, young neighbor, enjoyed a late afternoon bowl of freshly cooked rice.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/nXdS19MWBLw" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Video, Mugabe’s First Pot of Rice over Briquettes.
Instrumentals by Kaiser Cartel.

Gorillas head to the City: Natural History Museum, part 1

Do kids from the city like mountain gorillas?
Have they visited the park where golden monkeys live?
Do they ever see forest elephants in their back yard?

A few months ago, I received an email from Sophia Milosevic Bijleveld – she and her husband live in Kigali, Rwanda’s captial city which is approximately a 2 hour drive from where I live in the Northern Province and Parc National des Volcans where the mountain gorillas live. I was thrilled to learn more about her work at the Kandt House Museum of Natural History in Kigali and pleased that she was interested in learning more about our project.

Click here to see a photo of Richard Kandt’s house that is now the Natural History Museum and more information provided by the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda.

Conversations with Sophia were refreshing and we started planning for art from Art of Conservation students in the north to be brought down to the city for an exhibition. Sophia received final approval from the director of the Institute of National Museums, Professor KANIMBA and a date was set.

Team AoC loaded the trucks with art – art made from students from the classes we just finished – and once we arrived in Kigali we got busy hanging the work at the museum.

Sophia contacted schools in Kigali and arranged for field trips to the museum. Here, Valerie and Sophia with a group of school children discussing the lesson Nzeli and the Flying Dart: Dr. Lucy Tells a Story.

Fahad, at the far right, speaks with students visiting the museum from APACOPE (Association des Parents pour la Contribution a la Promotion de l’Education).

Above, Eric and students look at watercolors – Animals of the Virunga Forest: gorilla, golden monkey, forest elephant, and forest buffalo.

Sophia, Valerie, Eric and Fahad received many interesting questions from the children.
Here are a few:
1. Do gorillas eat bananas?
2. How do gorillas form their families?
3. How do they get to know each other?
4. Do they breast-feed?
5. Does HIV/AIDS come from gorillas?
6. Do gorillas have boundaries? Aren’t there gorillas in Congo and Uganda?
7. People say we come from gorillas? Why do gorillas still exist?
8. Between humans and gorillas, who appeared on the planet before the other?
9. What would happen if these animals no longer existed?

Some of the kids laughed when they learned that some of the drawings were made by adults and insisted they could draw better. Well, with the interactive sheets below, students soon had a chance to try for themselves.
After viewing and discussing the art, students drew gorillas, answered questions in their own words about conservation, and drew a sad and happy expression. Interactive sheet #1 in English and Kinyarwanda.

Here, we draw the body of a forest buffalo. Interactive sheet #2 in French.

Thank you Sophia, for giving us the opportunity to help bridge a gap between city streets and forests where the last remaining mountain gorillas inhabit.

Coming up next, more scenes from the Kigali.

Art Show: Part 2

More scenes from Art of Conservation’s art show.

students-of-shingiro-pleased-with-their-art-displayed.jpgTwo Shingiro’s art students pose in front of their art on display.

shingiro-student-in-front-of-her-work.jpgAbove, another student from Shingiro.

fahad-engaged-with-students-and-other-kids.jpgTeam AoC is pleased to hear lots of talking between students, families, and friends.

kids-looking-together.jpgWatercolors of animals in the Virunga Forest capture these children’s attention.

they-still-have-theie-hankies.jpgDo you remember when everyone received hankiess? Quite a fashion statement!

ester-at-work-at-lhotel-muhabura.jpgEster, at l’hotel Muhabura, here with Where Do Gorillas Come From? and 5 Great Apes art.

Art to Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city, next!


Wearing Art for Conservation

Art of Conservation’s three-month courses are coming to an end – a time of bittersweetness for Valerie, Eric, Fahad and me. Did we cover all that we intended to in such a short period? Did we move too quickly or at a nice pace in order for lessons to seep in? There are endless things we wish to introduce and encourage with each individual that discerning an appropriate time to stop teaching can be difficult to find. But on the other hand, we know we will soon begin working with another group of students and we’ve done our best to provide stimulus and courage to our current group of students. But we’ll still miss the people we’ve come to know.

T-Shirt painting and preparing invitations for next week’s art show is what we want to achieve today.
First…T-Shirts with a Virunga Forest animal painted on the front.

Simeon wears the T-Shirt he painted which has a forest elephant face!

Six students at a time paint their own design on a shirt using textile paints. They’ll have to wait until the art show to receive their shirt.

This young boy uses his golden monkey picture from a previous lesson for his T-Shirt design.

Eric assists a student with her design of a gorilla and name.

Here, a sneak peek of what’s to come…. the ART SHOW.


Jubilant Forest Elephants

Paint a forest elephant’s face showing a HAPPY expression. Have fun!

Tapping into our imaginations, we conclude our series of facial expression drawings with the FOREST ELEPHANT. Living next to the protected area of Parc National des Volcans, the Virunga Forest, many of the students have witnessed forest elephants disregard the wall surrounding the park and move to fields near their own houses.


Any of you drink Tusker Beer in Kenya? Watching the children paint these great pictures I was reminded of the Tusker T-shirt design.

Perhaps some of you are getting a sense of joy seeing this work of facial expressions. Let me know if you do. Feel free to send me your drawing of an animal’s expression. I can post it here.