Wildlife Alliance’s mobile environmental education unit, the Kouprey Express (KE), has been growing over the past year by creating some important partnerships both within and outside of the organization. KE’s mandate is to work with schools and communities in Koh Kong Province, the hub of Wildlife Alliance’s field activities, to teach about wildlife and habitat conservation and sustainability in all aspects of life. However, limiting their activities to just one province has meant that their lessons have not been able to reach countrywide. Recently, the KE has been increasing its outreach to other parts of the country by partnering with other NGOs – to great acclaim. The team collaborated with organizations such as New Hope for Orphans, Community Home Care for Women, and the National Borei (Orphanage) for Infants and Children to conduct field trips to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center for these organization’s constituents. All of these NGOs operate in various provinces throughout the country, some of which are known wildlife trafficking hubs. These trips are all the more vital based on that knowledge and they have been very successful in opening the eyes of participants to the plight of Cambodia’s wildlife.
One trip in particular was notable for its ability to reach rural villagers who have almost no opportunity to learn about the wildlife and forest destruction that is directly affecting them. The KE team collaborated with Poh Kao, an organization working to protect wildlife in remote Rattanakiri Province in the northeast, to bring 20 rural villagers to see wildlife at the rescue center. This was a very important trip because these villagers, most of whom are ethnic minorities, live entirely in the forest near the Lao border and wildlife trafficking and forest destruction is having a devastating effect on their lives, as they depend on the forest for sustenance. These participants are from villages so remote that many of them had never seen a car before this trip. One woman and her son walked 40 kilometers through the forest to get to the nearest village so they could join the trip. During this visit to PTWRC, the KE team had the children draw wildlife they have seen personally around their homes and many of them drew gibbons. The community members now know the wildlife rescue hotline and excellent collaboration was established between Wildlife Alliance and Poh Kao with the aim of protection of all wildlife.
Furthermore, the KE team has been collaborating with Wildlife Alliance’s own Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT) to increase the effectiveness of their message. One of KE’s program activities is to produce Community Night Shows in various villages throughout Koh Kong to reach community members outside of the classroom. In March, KE collaborated with the WRRT to put on a special Community Night Show. The WRRT Project Manager, one Military Police officer, and a Forestry Administration officer, gave a presentation and spoke to the crowds, which numbered around 500, about the urgency of wildlife and forest conservation and the need to work together to stop illegal wildlife trafficking. This provided an important opportunity for community members to understand that the WRRT is there to help them and to also reduce the understandable fear many Cambodians have of government and law enforcement officials. The WRRT presentation was followed by a slideshow highlighting threats to wildlife and the urgent need to protect them. This particular night show was especially well-attended and appreciated and, depending on the operations schedule of the WRRT, the KE will continue to collaborate with them on community outreach efforts. To help the Kouprey Express team as they extend their efforts countrywide, visit our donation page and choose Kouprey Express from the dropdown menu.
On May 24th, the Kouprey Express (KE) and Community-Based Ecotourism (CBET) teams participated in a bi-monthly Green Night at Metahouse, the German cultural center, in Phnom Penh. Participation in this event came about after the staff of local NGO, Save Cambodia’s Wildlife (SCW), expressed interest in conducting a Green Night on Climate Change jointly with Wildlife Alliance.
While Mr. Prom Hoeng, the chief of Chi Phat’s CBET Committee, presented on the impacts of climate change upstairs, KE set up shop downstairs and gave out more than 50 posters and hotline stickers, while providing information to visitors about KE’s education efforts, forest protection, and wildlife trafficking. All of the visitors expressed interest in not only wildlife and forest protection but also in KE’s posters and stickers. Having fun giveaways provides the team with the opportunity to spread the word about the hotline and environmental protection beyond just the event attendees.
Kouprey Express is looking forward to further participation in Green Nights and collaboration with SCW. It is important for to the KE team – as well as to the CBET team – to bring the message of environmental education and forest and wildlife protection to new venues and new audiences. The KE team can only visit so many classrooms in a year, but events like this help to ensure the messages stay out there even when the team is not giving classroom lessons.
In April, the Kouprey Express Mobile Environmental Education Project was invited to join a fundraising event at French NGO, Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE). PSE works with 6,500 young adults and children who were previously trash pickers at the notorious trash dump in Steung Meanchey, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. PSE holds an annual charity event to raise awareness for issues affecting young people in Cambodia and invites variousorganizations and companies to participate.
Wildlife Alliance’s KE team had a small booth where we were able to promote forest and wildlife conservation issues. They also set up an area for children to make wildlife art which instantly attracted a huge crowd of young participants! The team gave away t-shirts, wildlife posters, and wildlife hotline stickers to raise awareness of the hotline number and encourage people to call if they see illegal wildlife activity. When asked, some of the children acknowledge knowing people and places that hunt or sell wildlife, so this served as an excellent opportunity to reach a large audience who previously had no knowledge of the wildlife trade, wildlife laws, or the rescue hotline. The first night of the event got short by a surprise downpour, but the second day was beautiful and busy with over 3,500 attendees.
Events like this are an important way for the Kouprey Express team to increase outreach. They usually work in schools just in Koh Kong Province, where most of Wildlife Alliance’s field projects are located. The ability to reach other areas and audiences increases Wildlife Alliance’s ability to diminish and eventually put an end to wildlife trafficking in Cambodia.
After a recent trip to the Chi Phat Primary School by the Kouprey Express, the team received 13 ‘love’ letters from students. So enthralled by their experience, the kids felt compelled to express their gratitude to the team for helping them learn about animal welfare and the environment. As the bus drove out of town, several of the kids ran behind the bus waving and cheering. It is immensely gratifying to the team in specific and the whole of Wildlife Alliance to know that we are making a positive impact in the lives of these children while teaching them to preserve Cambodia’s natural heritage. The Kouprey Express team visits approximately 2 schools each month, up to 20 per year delivering lessons to students and teachers in conservation education. Increased understanding through interactive education and hands-on activities is the critical building block through which Wildlife Alliance hopes to sustain Cambodia’s proactive conservation of its threatened wildlife and by which we are influencing positive behaviors, attitudes, and actions toward wildlife and their habitat. Translations of the Letters: Letter1 - Teacher I really don’t want you to leave because I love and miss you very much when i learned with you it made me very happy and feel very comfortable. From me, the person who love and miss you very much. Han Thorn, Grade 4; Letter 2 - Teacher I really don’t want to get away from you because and love and miss you very much, we want you to teach us again. From me, Tong Yi, Grade 4
On September 16, 2011 the Kouprey Express took a group of 96 people from the National Borey for Infants and Children (NBIC), including orphaned and disabled children, staff, and international volunteers, on a field trip Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center. For many of these children, it was their first visit to PTWRC and their excitement was palpable. The visit included a tour of the whole facility and environmental games and art projects to facilitate learning about wildlife. The day was hot and airless, and even though many of the children were physically handicapped and confined to wheelchairs, their fascination kept them moving. They were eager to see all the animals and fearless when meeting Lucky, one of PTWRC’s resident elephants. They got up close with her, petting her hide and hugging her trunk when she touched them “Hello.” After a delicious lunch at the center, the kids participated in art activities and games. The KE staff has never seen as many smiling faces as they saw in the NBIC group and a great time was had by all. We look forward to hosting another group from NBIC soon!
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Communications and Finance Field Liaison