Upper-secondary Students Attending Conservation Aw
Okapi Conservation Project educators focus on working with schools in communities that interface with forest resources and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. Students are considered important message multipliers and future decision-makers. In order to make them aware of conservation issues, OCP educators organized a series of conferences on forest protection and management of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve for secondary school children in Isiro, Watsa and Bunia. All three communities are district headquarters for territories that encompass the Reserve.
This far ranging trip involved the participation of 17 people, traveling in a pickup and riding several motorbikes. Over 2400 kilometers were covered, sometimes over very difficult muddy tracks, to bring the program to 2206 students attending 33 schools. This is the fifth time OCP has organized such a challenging public awareness campaign, involving students, school leaders and local media.
The conference participants openly discussed the nature of the threats to the forest as well as the unique conservation value of okapi and the Reserve. As an example of how the educators reach the students in Isiro protected animal posters were explained and distributed to schools for zoology lessons and 20 soccer balls as well as soccer equipment were donated for an upcoming interschool tournament.
Given the interest of students in the conservation message, we feel that a good number of them will show an improved respect for the environment, share what they learned with their families and friends and have better attitude about accepting the restrictions on the use of natural resources allowed inside the Reserve.
During the trip OCP staff took the opportunity to meet with local government officials and host seminars. Nearly 100 officials participated in this activity alongside District Commissioners and Territory Administrators in Isiro, Watsa and Bunia. Conservation law brochures produced by OCP were handed out for their offices and staff. The OCP education team took advantage of the seminars to explain the reasons and procedures of closing mining camps, the importance of honoring the boundaries of the Reserve and the need to promote the conservation of nature as one of their defined roles as community leaders.