The theme of the 2020 IZE conference: “Driving Conservation Action” will help us to continue developing a road map to guide us in moving our members, guests, and supporters to take action to save wildlife.
The conference focused on creating programmes with Multiple Impacts through Educators Leading Organisational Change within their organisations that apply education outcomes throughout their organisations to Partnerships and Community Collaborations by developing Empathy and Awe for Wildlife.
PARTICIPATION of AFRICAN CONSERVATION EDUCATORS in IZE PROGRAMS
The International Zoo Educators Association (IZE) is witnessing an increased participation of Educators from Africa. It just concluded 25th IZE virtual conference which was hosted by San Diego Zoo USA from 10th - 12th October, 2020. Many Conservation Educators from Africa (South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ghana) actively participated with the majority of them giving presentations. It is also exciting that African conservation education efforts and case studies are featuring prominently in the IZE publications like; Journals and the recently launched WAZA/IZE Conservation Education Strategy: Zoo and Aquarium Educational Resources: https://www.waza.org/blog/zoo-and-aquarium-educational-resources/. Africa has also performed well in planning and organising In - Country Training Programs for Educators and hosting of Job Experience Program where Educators get opportunity to learn directly from colleagues around the world (Check IZE website: https://izea.net for details on these programs).
Despite these achievements, the main challenges that impede further progress of IZE programs in Africa include; Inadequate funding, limited Conservation education materials, limited networking across regions of Africa, poor internet connection and penetration, impact of COVID 19 pandemic among others.
Finally, I recognize and appreciate the enormous support provided by Mr. John Werth and Dr. Judy Mann in advancing the IZE agenda in Africa. Thank you so much.
IZE REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR AFRICA
What the 2020 IZE Conference meant to African delegates:
As the 25th International Zoo Educators (IZE) virtual conference, 2020 hosted by San Diego Zoo USA comes to an end, it is time to reflect on the stories and the ideas that have been shared, and the impact it can have on our African Region.
Thanks to David Musingo, the IZE Regional Representative for Africa who led the African team to the conference. The team included PAAZA delegates and the sponsored participants from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa and Ghana attended and for some of them presented their work at this conference.
The conference was a perfect opportunity for educators around the world to discuss new strategies, protocols ideas and encourage further collaboration in conservation education among captive animal facilities during COVID 19 pandemic era. Education is a fantastic tool to grow conservation minded communities and eventually protect our wildlife. Our mission is to use it in such a way that it benefits both humans and Nature sustainably .
Among the wide array of ideas collected by the African team, a selected few will most certainly be integrated in the 2021 PAAZA educational programs in line with the new WAZA/IZE Conservation Strategy: https://www.waza.org/priorities/community-conservation/the-waza-education-strategy/.
The following are key highlights of the conference and ideas that can be adapted to the African situation:
Regarding the structure of conservation educational programs themselves, it would be interesting to try and incorporate a comprehensive framework instead of a vague direction. It should ease the discussions between the different stakeholders and facilitate understanding of the programmes true aim.
When engaging with people to promote conservation actions, it is often overlooked that some commitments require more than a single action. For example, in waste management through composting of kitchen leftovers, requires the need to buy or build a composter, install it in the garden as well as dedicating a smaller container in the kitchen to collect the composting materials and regularly empty that small container into the composter etc. By providing ready to use materials and guides, we simplify these steps and help people reach their goals. It is an idea that we need to incorporate to all our projects that will maximize their success rate. More ideas can be found on the PAAZA mobile app ‘Your Nature Survival Action’.
The use of Indigenous Knowledge (IK)to promote conservation is a very important point to consider when educating and creating awareness in Africa. Most communities are organized around culture and religion and their beliefs are extremely strong. By using the totems, and folklores around animals in communities, people can relate to them and thus are more interested in the knowledge the educators could offer. In order to explain science to African communities, it would be more effective to use IK and stories mixing the intended message with the local myths.
A very interesting study pointed out that when asked to participate in a very small conservation action (i.e. put a sticker for conservation on the car), people are more likely to agree afterwards to a much bigger commitment (i.e. install a large board in their own front garden). It might be interesting to look at including this result into future conservation campaigns in our case.
The COVID-19 pandemic had several negative impacts on all captive animal facilities, but education still carried on remotely via the creation of online teaching materials that can be downloaded by families and schools. It showed that online teaching is possible, and that we generally don't make use of the many technological resources available. Although it is sometimes difficult to share such platforms in some rural parts of Africa due to the absence of network, it could still be used in numerous ways (database for educational material, sharing platforms between facilities etc.). Also, numbers show that videos were the most sought after online materials during the crisis. Videos, even though they are not always easy to make, are a fantastic means to share educational content. One very interesting project could be the creation of a small series of videos on captive wildlife as a way to educate, but also to promote PAAZA facilities in Africa and around the world. Another option could be a podcast, much easier to create but less sought after.
Concerning Social Media, we might need to start using the 'cuteness factor' more in order to raise audience numbers. Zoos and aquariums often welcome new births and we should publicize them.
Captive facilities are not only for animals, they are primarily organized around a public. Apart from being a simple entertainment center, zoos and aquariums can also take part in human health and well-being. It has been done in England this year, where a facility welcomed visitors suffering from mental health issues and designed specific programs to help them through the connection to animals and nature. It yielded incredible results and can be replicated in Africa. This sort of programme could also be used to highlight the importance of both close contact with animals and nature in general, and showcase the importance of captive facilities as mental and physical health centers for the community.
- Lastly, one educational program was particularly interesting. It included special passports given to families, that they needed to bring back to different activities designed to promote connection to nature and conservation. The passports were stamped at each session, and the families would get a prize at the end of the program, depending on the number of activities they attended and the completion of their passport. It is an idea that could definitely be developed for the PJCC (PAAZA Junior Conservation Club) members.
All in all, it was a very successful experience, and we would like to once more thank every person that participated in the realization of the 2020 IZE conference and/or offered the African team the opportunity to attend.