Bwindi Apes Conservation Education Partnership

Categories: Journal no. 52, Protective Measures, Uganda, Bwindi, Mountain Gorilla, Gorilla Journal, Success Stories

BACEP employee Emily Turinawe interviews a student in the local language Rukiga to test the progress and the success of the program. (© Kristen Lukas)

The Bwindi Apes Conservation Education Partnership (BACEP) is a collaborative project of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVAN), Cleveland Metroparks Zoo (CMZ), North Carolina Zoo (NCZ) and UNITE for the Environment. The project is designed to increase awareness about mountain gorillas and chimpanzees in four primary schools surrounding Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda, home to nearly half of the world's 880 remaining mountain gorillas. The project was inspired by prior collaborations between participating organizations and a joint commitment to the conservation of Uganda's great apes.

Local people living in the communities on the edge of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park may know little about the environment, conservation issues, and the critically endangered mountain gorillas living nearby. Furthermore, there is a great need to improve the educational standards as well as the infrastructure of the schools, as many schools lack electricity and running water, and basic supplies (such as paper, pens, chalk, and portable blackboards) are always in short supply. BACEP partners recognized the opportunity to work with local communities to address these issues by empowering teachers and schools with additional knowledge and materials specific to their needs. We also provide support for other activities in conservation education that engage primary school children and their families.

Founded in late 2014, BACEP combines conservation education strategies previously implemented by MPI-EVAN in Ruhija, a small village bordering Bwindi, and UNITE in Bigodi, a small village near Kibale National Park - an area of importance for Uganda's chimpanzee populations - to create a new model of outreach and evaluation targeted to the needs of these local communities. As a result, BACEP provides a range of activities including field trips, debate and music competitions, teacher training, and classroom lessons for schools located in and near Ruhija village. Evaluation strategies include teacher observations, student surveys, and home visits that are designed to promote evidence-based approaches to conservation education that maximize efficiency and impact.

Currently, two Ugandan staff members coordinate BACEP programming in Ruhija under the supervision of the partners. In 2015, BACEP held two teacher training workshops on biodiversity (reaching 57 teachers), took 480 students on field trips to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and conducted a variety of conservation activities designed to further students' understanding of the environment. Students maintained tree nurseries at the primary schools, resulting in the distribution of nearly 6000 tree seedlings to the families of the school children. In addition, BACEP organized a training workshop on fuel efficient stoves with local community members.

Kristen Lukas, Corinne Kendall and Martha Robbins

None of this work would be possible without the support and engagement of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the local schools and communities, MPI-EVAN, NCZ, UNITE, CMZ, and a number of generous donors. Please consider helping BACEP advance the mission of conserving endangered great ape species of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park by learning more and donating or emailing us.