Tag Archives: Noloholo

Seeing Lions: An Intern’s Experience at Noloholo’s Environmental Summer Camp

By Savannah Swinea

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The road we travel is so bumpy – I fear every moment that I will be thrown out into the outskirts of Tarangire National Park. But the students around me show no fear, only happiness and excitement, so I relax as we traverse the Maasai Steppe of Northern Tanzania spotting zebra, giraffe, and antelope. Suddenly, the car stops and all heads turn as we are told that lions are nearby. We see them in the distance, and the students become quiet with awe as they stare through their binoculars. I ask, “Have you ever seen lions before?” They all shake their heads, saying “no” without words. The two lionesses lie close together under the shade of an acacia tree. After a long period of silent observation, the Land Rover starts again and we continue to explore the savannah ecosystem. When we return to the campsite, it is evident that the journey has sparked the interest of the students, and their environmental teachings about these beautifully unique creatures can finally be put into the perspective of one lucky enough to see them in person.

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As an intern in the Environmental Education department of the African People and Wildlife Fund, I work closely with the primary school students who venture to Noloholo as part of the environmental summer camps hosted here. The camps give top students in the area practical knowledge of their environment and how to take care of it, and sometimes provide a glimpse at the vulnerable species that become more rare every day. The students are not only intelligent and motivated but are also kind and fun-loving. I believe their sense of adventure and awareness of their environment will allow them to succeed as stewards of the country that is their home: Tanzania.

Camp kids playing at Noloholo

Three New Schools Join the Fun at 2014 Noloholo Environmental Camps

By Deirdre Leowinata

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Summer Camp: For many, the term brings fond memories of campfires, fast friendships, ”cannon balls” into cold water, mess halls, and hiding from the counselors when they tell you to go to sleep. For many families in North America, summer camp is a given.

In the communities that we work in here on the Maasai Steppe, summer camp is a little different. For those students who participate, our Noloholo Environmental Camps are highly competitive, involving a combined evaluation from school grades in addition to two separate tests. And if they don’t study, even the best students can’t assume they will get in, with only five boys and five girls taken from each school. When they finish their tests, students wait anxiously to hear whether they will be taking the bumpy ride to camp in our trusty lorry. For those whose names are called, you will never see children run as fast to get permission forms signed by their parents. For those whose names are not called, some can try again next year, and a gentle pep talk from our Conservation Education program officer, Neovitus “Neo” Sianga, returns smiles to the children’s faces.

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This year, we added three new primary schools to the environmental camp program: Emboret, Loibor Soit, and Mbuko. So far, we have held two weeks of camp: one for the students of Loibor Soit and Mbuko, and the second for Kangala and Emboret. As per usual, and especially for the new schools, students entered cautiously, with wary glances at unfamiliar foods (like bread and peanut butter). But also as per usual, they quickly became accustomed to camp, and the initial timidity dissolved with the small candy rewards they placed in their mouths. By the end of the week, virtually every arm went up when a question was posed.

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On the list of draws for the kids, camp provides three good meals plus two snacks a day, a severe lack of chores, clean rooms to sleep in, and absolutely no physical punishment. Our Conservation Education duo consisting of Neo and Revocatus Magayane use teaching methods that are both instructive and fun, which are two words that aren’t often used in the same sentence here on the Maasai Steppe. Children receive prizes for raising their hands, games of tag teach lessons about ecological relationships, and game drives treat them to a different perspective on the wildlife that live in their own backyards. Each day, campers have lessons on topics from ecology and natural history, to project management and astronomy, while at the same time learning about what our team does here for conservation. Lessons are taught in dynamic and interactive ways that are constantly raising their confidence in important life skills such as public speaking, organization, and debate. They are exposed to role models such as our own Joyce Ndakaru and Elvis Kisimir, and on culture day, even our interns get involved in presenting their own special family traditions alongside Maasai elders. At the end of the week every attendee receives a certificate of completion, and the most actively participating boy and girl receive their deserved recognition. Each and every child goes home a little bit wiser, a little bit braver, and a little bit plumper.

It’s no wonder our camps are so popular here.

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Winter Issue of the Carnivore Chronicle

Find out what our organization has been doing to change the face of conservation on and off the Maasai Steppe. Our latest issue of the Carnivore Chronicle is now on our website! Happy Holidays!

A Budding Biologist – Meet Noloholo Environmental Scholar, Hussein Maricha

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

 

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 protected]

The 2013 Class of Noloholo Environmental Scholars

The 2013 Class of Noloholo Environmental Scholars

Camp Critters (I Spy with My Little Eye)

Living in the bush has its ups and downs, but one of the biggest ups (or perhaps downs to some) is being able to expect to find a new friend – furry, scaly, or otherwise – almost every day. This summer, we have been very lucky to receive visits from a variety of the local inhabitants from every part of the food chain, including a few shy ones that seem to have worked up the courage to say hi!

It seems to be a very sssweet summer for the snakes here at Noloholo because they have been popping up in some curious places.  It can get pretty hot out when the sun is high in a cloudless sky up here on our hill, and ectotherms like snakes have to physically move themselves into warmer or colder locations to regulate their body temperatures. Our first visitor was a beautiful young puff adder who decided that the best place for shade was our environmental centre one afternoon during a visit with Dr. Sarah Durant of the Serengeti Cheetah Project and the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative. The snake appeared in almost surreal clarity, as if sharpened to perfection. In the sun, each scale – olive, gold, and brown – was visible in full detail. If you ever get the chance to see one in the wild, you will be sure to be struck by its beauty, along with some amount of fear depending on how ophidiophobic you are. They are, after all, responsible for a large chunk of the snake-related fatalities in Africa.

 

Puff Adder

This puff adder is just one of the guests we had in our environmental center this summer.

Speaking of ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes, would you go for a run knowing that one of the deadliest snakes in the world was hanging around? The black mamba is named not for its skin colour, but for its mouth, which starts to resemble death itself if you stare into the seemingly endless black hole for long enough. The silhouette of a rising mamba, which can easily lift two-thirds of its muscular body off the ground, is enough to strike fear into even the bravest warrior, let alone a new father taking his daughter for a stroll.

Then, there was the central African rock python. The biggest snake in Africa, and it snuck into our environmental centre (which seems to be a popular place) without any trouble. What’s more, it managed to climb just above the doorway for a quick nap without anyone noticing until an intern with a keen eye for snakes noticed its sleeping figure. Luckily, our wildlife intern had some experience with snake handling, and after a little bit of MacGyvering, a lot of manoeuvering, and a few pictures, she was able to set the snake out into a more suitable place for a nap. It was only a baby, after all.

On the Maasai Steppe, the night brings a cacophony of noises, and no night is exactly the same. The strangely harmonious hollow call of the hyena and the distant (or sometimes not-so-distant) moans of a lion pride are truly unique and magical experiences when you’re sleeping under a billion shining stars. One of the most haunting sounds, however, is the sound of a herd of frightened zebra whooping loudly as they run from a pride of lions. The scattered calls are sure to echo in your mind for years afterwards. Especially when, the next morning, the reason for the night chorus becomes apparent with the body of a young zebra sitting next to the staff fire pit. Those moments ensure that the circle of life, both the concept and the song, still sit in the back of your mind.

As old Murphy (as well as all the data on big cat vs. snake densities) would have it, the number of times we saw snakes this summer outnumbers the number of times we saw lions in camp. However, the lions continue to remind us of their presence with their nighttime taunts. It’s funny how many animals you can see when you’re not studying them.