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The African People and Wildlife Fund’s Noloholo Environmental Scholars program started in 2010. Since then, we’ve sent 16 students from the Maasai Steppe to a private secondary school in Monduli. The six-year scholarship allows these motivated boys and girls to have access to many opportunities and experiences that they might not get in their hometowns. We are very proud of our scholars and what they represent for the futures of their communities and the environment.
Hussein Maricha was helping APW’s environmental education staff grade exams for the Noloholo Environmental Summer Camps. He has just finished his first term as a scholar but bravely comes forward for the interview, eager to practice his English.
African People and Wildlife Fund: Hussein, how are you?
Hussein Maricha: I am very well thanks. I have been very happy.
APW: What have you been happy about?
HM: I am happy because I enjoy being home. I get to relax and rest. It is nice to relax after being at school and working hard.
He squints as the sun comes out from behind some clouds. On the balcony at the Noloholo Environmental Center, he glances towards the plains of Tarangire National Park.
APW: What do you like to study in school?
HM: I love all the science subjects, but my favorite subject is biology. I would like to be an animal biologist one day.
APW: What makes you want to be a biologist?
HM: I think animals are very interesting. Last year I went to Tarangire National Park (with APW), and I saw so many animals. It was my first time seeing so many animals. It would be great to study them.
APW: What animal do you want to study?
HM: I am not sure yet, but my favorite animals are lions. I think they are very proud and beautiful.
I imagine Dr. Lichtenfeld has found her protégé in this charismatic, outgoing young man. Although he has only been studying English for a little while, he isn’t shy or quiet. He dives into our conversation with confidence and understanding, unafraid to make mistakes in spite of the unfamiliarity.
APW: How old are you?
HM: I’m 17 years old and I am in Form One.
APW: Do you like your school?
HM: Yes, I love it. There are so many great teachers and beautiful buildings.
Hussein is the youngest of two boys, living with his parents in Loibor Siret. His father is the English and Mathematics teacher at his old school, Loibor Siret Primary School. Although he says he prefers his school in Monduli, he credits his father with teaching him how to be a diligent student.
HM: My father has always been supportive of me, and he has taught me many things about being a good student.
APW: Is your brother also in school?
HM: Yes, he will be going into Form 5. He hopes to become a physician.
APW: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
HM: I like playing football with my friends on my school team. I also like watching football. My favorite team is Chelsea Football Club. My favorite player is Oscar.
APW: How has your experience been as a scholar?
HM: I feel very lucky to be a scholar. My family is very happy for me and supportive, and I feel successful.
We wish Hussein the best of luck as he continues on his journey to become a biologist! We are there to help!
If you would like to help support a Noloholo Environmental Scholar,
you can donate at www.afrpw.org/donate or contact us at email@example.com.
Yohana Lojumbutwa has been living in his boma for eighteen years. He used to protect his seventy head of cattle with the dry, feeble thorn bushes used by the majority of Maasai pastoralists. But recently, he installed the last component of his new Living Wall.
APW designed its Living Walls to protect big cats, people and livestock while preserving the environment. Since our first installation in 2008, they have done just that.
Cloaked in his bright blue shuka, Yohana greets us warmly at his boma with his sons and nephews. Around the cattle corral, newly planted Commiphora africana poles are ready for binding with chain-link fencing. It took Yohana three weeks to cut the branches of mature Commiphora trees, find a tractor to haul them to his boma and wait for the branches to dry before planting them around his boma. This may seem like a long time, but he won’t have to do it again for at least another 25 years.
“Prior to my Living Wall, I had to replace the thorn bushes around my corral every three months. It takes three weeks just to get enough thorns because all the bushes in the area are gone,” Yohana said. Like many other Maasai households, Yohana’s wives and the elders at his boma are responsible for replacing the thorny bush fences. As time passes, the women and elders have to travel farther and farther to get the bushes because the closest ones were cut long ago – a classic case of deforestation.
The Commiphora trees used to reinforce the chain-link fencing for Living Walls are branches or cuttings from mature trees. The “parent” tree isn’t cut down or killed in the process. Our technique helps to prevent habitat loss and further deforestation, in fact we are increasing the number of trees on the Steppe. Livestock owners dry the Commiphora branches for about a week and then plant them around the boma.
“It’s extremely hard work cutting the thorns for traditional bomas,” Yohana said. Remarking on his new Living Wall, he adds, “Not only are the women happy, but I am happy too because now the cattle can’t break out of the boma and I don’t have to collect them when they do.” Yohana isn’t sure how many times carnivores attacked his cattle over the years. But, he says the majority of the attacks happen when the cattle break out of the boma and run off into the open fields and grasslands. Earlier in the year, he lost two cows to lions that had attacked the herd after they had escaped from the boma.
“There isn’t anyone who doesn’t want a Living Wall. Everyone with a boma wants a wall,” Yohana said with a wide grin as the last foot of chain-link was nailed into a commiphora post.
Nothing brings people together like a Serbian military lorry – especially when the seats are removed to accommodate huge cement moraines. The APW camera-trapping vehicle of choice, affectionately called “Tammy”, can only be described as a green beast: a glorious and practical green beast, but a beast nonetheless. Standing four feet tall atop its six wheels, and ten feet at its full height, Tammy can withstand even the deepest potholes, which are often more like small chasms here. You would never think to describe such a machine as practical unless you lived in Tanzania.
This past week, our Warriors for Wildlife were busy setting up camera traps in local korongos (riverbeds) with Dennis Minja, APW’s wildlife monitoring program officer. Don’t let the word “local” fool you – after all, this is not the suburbs. A two-mile trip usually involves navigating through a herd of cattle, multiple winding detours due to the lack of roads, and one or two close calls with the acacia thorn. After five full days of hard work, the team managed to set up 16 cameras at 8 different locations, with two facing cameras per trap.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the procedures involved in camera trapping, you should note that it does not require any actual trapping of animals – just pictures. It does, however, require a lot of planning, a lot of manual labour, and a whole lot of patience. And like life, you always have to account for the fact that things don’t always work out the way you plan.
First of all, the moraines that are used to hold the cameras are probably about as heavy as a baby elephant, and not nearly as cute. In essence, they are metal boxes attached to metal poles, which in turn are embedded rather unceremoniously into a large block of concrete. If that doesn’t sound appealing, try lifting one (or 16) over your shoulders a few times over.
Secondly, we had a bit of a warm spell this week – thank you climate change – and the warriors’ uniforms are made for protection, not for breathability. After a couple of hours in those things under the “jua kali” (harsh sun), fatigue and dehydration come fast. And in Tammy’s open-air rear, with the dry season air virtually vacuuming water out of your body, it is hard to avoid.
Finally, it takes a surprising amount of strategy to choose a camera location within a korongo. To be effective for identification purposes, the camera must capture the maximum surface area of the maximum number of animals passing across the designated area, all the while maintaining view of the opposing camera. The cameras are placed in locations that will allow us to monitor the impacts of our conservation programs over time by giving us estimates of animal densities, individual health, and population statuses. To do that, it’s best to ensure that you’re going to get a good view of most animals passing through in order to be able to identify individuals. This involves clearing any brush that may obstruct the shot, which can be hard in a place where everything has evolved to defend itself. There are many things to keep in mind, from varying animal heights to direction of travel. To test shot quality, each game scout took a turn as the hyena throughout the day, trying to create the best impression in gait and call, with both impressive and hilarious results. Why a hyena, I couldn’t tell you, but perhaps it is due to the healing powers of laughter.
We will be checking the traps in the next few weeks, and hopefully we’ll be able to show you what our friendly neighborhood predators are up to. Keep track of our Facebook page for updates, and remember to keep in mind what it takes to get those photos, because it’s a bit more than a walk in the park!
Ninety-four women from sub-villages all over Loibor Siret attended a meeting on Thursday to discuss the formation of an association of women. The meeting was hosted by our conservation enterprise and development program officer, Joyce Ndakaro, along with our assistant environmental education officer, Revocatus Magayane.
Dressed in their brightest kangas, the women came ready to listen to the details that Joyce had outlined for the formation of the association. Earlier this year, some of the women formed their own women’s groups to support each other in the establishing of environmentally favorable businesses. Three or four women from each of the thirty women’s groups attended the meeting. As well as individuals outside of the groups who are still interested in joining the association.
“The purpose of the meeting was to solicit the interest of the women, gather ideas and answer any of the questions they might have,” Joyce said.
The meeting began with a short introduction on the idea for the association. The idea came from APW—facing the challenge of how to reach the women together—and from the women themselves, through the entrepreneurship training they had at Noloholo. The association will help us communicate and connect with the women as one unit. The association will also serve as an outlet for the women to share thoughts, ideas and experiences, as they develop their small businesses through the micro-loans that APW will supply.
Three women from each group will serve as representatives in the association for their respective groups. On Monday, Joyce collected a list of the names of the women that had been chosen to represent their groups as the presidents, the treasurers and the third additional representatives. We believe by giving women on the Maasai Steppe a chance to lead and contribute to their households, we can empower them to influence others to protect and defend the environment.
Men in the community have already been influenced by the unity of the women in Loibor Siret. A few men’s groups have been formed, and some groups even allow some men to attend their meetings, however no men will be allowed to join the association.
“It is very important to the women, that they are making contributions to their households and their children. It creates better relationships for women, men and children in the communities,” Joyce said.
If you would like to read our most recent update from the Maasai Steppe, please click here.
If you would like to subscribe to our e-news updates and biannual newsletter, please visit our website, www.afrpw.org and click on “Subscribe to Official Newsletter” at the bottom left of the page or go to our Facebook page and click on “Get Noloholo News” at the top of the page.
The children who participate in our Wildlife Clubs are sitting their examination this week, to be admitted to the Noloholo Environmental Summer Camps in July. We visited a few of the schools in Kimotorok, Loibor Siret and Narakauo last week and were pleased to see that most of the children were working hard on projects and activities focused around helping the environment in their respective communities.
Some members of our team visited the Kimelok Primary School in Kimotorok on Tuesday. They found the schoolyard to be the cleanest of all the communities they had visited. When our environmental education team asked them about what they were doing, the children were proud to report that they had started a trash collecting initiative. The children make sure to collect any garbage they find around, putting it into a pit that the teachers and students help to dig earlier in the year. The environmental education officers at APW are working hard to find a way to ensure they have enough garbage receptacles to place in bathrooms and classrooms as well as around the schoolyard.
The Wildlife Club at Narakauo has started a chicken coop project. Along with their teacher, the children are building a chicken coop, so they can start selling fresh eggs to their community. They hope that with the profits they make from selling eggs, they can take a trip into Tarangire National Park. Although the park is just a few miles west of their community, many of the children have never been inside, and never had a chance to see all the incredible wildlife that calls the park home.
On Tuesday afternoon, our environmental education intern, Talia, went to the Loibor Siret Primary School to take a look at the computer that was donated through connections at APW. The computer was donated thanks to the students of Hill Freedman World Academy, a National Geographic Big Cats Initiative sister school. Talia is drawing up a comprehensive curriculum to teach the children how to use the computer, once they have returned to school after their summer break.
We asked all the children at the various schools if they were excited for the camps and they were eager to raise their hands. Those who attended in previous years shared their experiences and why they loved the Wildlife Clubs.
APW is getting ready for our first set of campers, arriving on July 1. We’ll be updating you on the fun we’ll be having, teaching the children about the environment and the many ways that they can become wildlife warriors.
Many thanks to all of our supporters who have contributed to our team’s hard work and accomplishments!
AFRICA’S SAVANNAH ECOSYSTEMS — AND THEIR LIONS — DECLINING AT ALARMING RATE
Lion Population Estimates as Low as 32,000, Habitat Reduced by 75%
Tanzania, East Africa (Dec. 4, 2012)—Researchers coordinated by a team at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University have determined that Africa’s once-thriving savannahs are in trouble, due to massive land-use conversion and burgeoning human population growth. The decline has had a significant impact on the lions that make their home in these savannahs; their numbers have dropped to as low as 32,000, down from nearly 100,000 just 50 years ago, according to a paper published online in this week’s journal “Biodiversity and Conservation.” The research is the most comprehensive assessment of lion numbers to date.
African savannahs are defined as those areas that receive between 300 and 1500 mm (approximately 11 to 59 inches) of rain annually. “These savannahs conjure up visions of vast open plains,” said Laly Lichtenfeld, a co-author of the paper who is Executive Director of the African People & Wildlife Fund and a Visiting Fellow with the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. “The reality is that from an original area a third larger than the continental United States, only 25% remains.” In comparison, 30% of the world’s original rain forests remain.
Please click here to read our Fall edition of The Carnivore Chronicle – APW’s biannual newsletter.
Inside, you’ll find our latest news and achievements featuring a new Conservation Enterprise and Development Program, HIV/AIDS education and Living Walls, Noloholo environmental summer camps, lions, cheetahs and Warriors for Wildlife, camera trapping big cats and much more…
If you would like to subscribe to our biannual newsletter and/or e-news updates,
please click here!