This week 25 conservation educators from PASA member sanctuaries across Africa came together in Yaounde, Cameroon to develop programs that will help their local communities learn about the value of protecting native forests and wildlife, and stop the killing of apes, moneys and other wild animals. PASA provides this advanced training free of charge to its member sanctuaries annually to promote conservation education in local communities, empower local educators with professional skills, and enable all our member sanctuaries to share and benefit from each others’ experiences. It’s been very exciting to hear about the innovative solutions that are being developed with local communities – one sanctuary works with a group of local single mothers who collect and clean plastic trash and make it into purses to sell. They are working through village chiefs to build energy efficient cookstoves out of local materials that reduce firewood consumption by 2/3rds. 40 villagers now have these stoves, which also help local women improve the air quality and safety of their homes by venting the smoke outside the building. Member sanctuaries are reaching thousands of school children in 12 countries to build appreciation and care for local wildlife…And it’s working! One PASA sanctuary recently had a former bushmeat hunter arrive at their center to turn in his gun to them, because he said he now realizes it is a mistake to kill bonobos and other endangered animals. Another sanctuary educator was stopped by a mother in the grocery store who told her how much she appreciated their work to teach her children to care for local wildlife. These are just a few examples of how PASA sanctuaries and PASA conservation education and community collaboration training are really making a difference. In fact, by the end of the week-long workshop, the translator we hired shared with us that he himself had been a bushmeat hunter and had grown up setting snares in the forest, but after hearing the discussions at our workshop, he now realizes wildlife is worth protecting and he is inspired to change careers to become a conservation educator!
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