n addition to our work with area schools and women’s groups, we also have educational initiatives that target the wider community.
In this area of Congo, there is no local newspaper and very few televisions. There is a local radio station, however, that broadcasts over a 100 km radius, reaching up to 60,000 people. People heavily rely on the radio for their information, making it an effective platform for conservation education around Tayna Nature Reserve.
GRACE has worked with students from the Tayna Center for Conservation Biology along with local actors and musicians to write and produce a popular 10-part radio drama that tells the story of two families – a gorilla family and a human one – and teaches about how poor human hygiene can endanger the health of both people and gorillas. This message is an important one for gorilla conservation, given that gorillas are susceptible to many of the same diseases as people and infectious disease is a major source of wild gorilla mortality. The forests in which Grauer’s gorillas live are surrounded by the densest human populations in Africa, putting them at high risk for human disease exposure. Promoting good hygiene in communities is one straightforward way to reduce this risk.
Investing in Community Health
In addition to spreading the word about the importance of good hygiene in our radio drama, GRACE also works to put this message into practice by improving sanitation in and around Kasugho. When GRACE was founded, the busy marketplace lacked latrines, which put people at risk because food was in close proximity to waste. It also had the potential to impact the GRACE gorillas because, although most of their food is gathered from the forest, part of their diet is supplemented with market fruits and vegetables. With enthusiastic support from Kasugho residents, GRACE built latrines at the market and used the dedication ceremony as an opportunity to discuss the benefits of good hygiene for human and wildlife health. GRACE also supports the local Kasugho health clinic by donating equipment and supplies.
Raising Awareness about Current Wildlife Protection Laws
In Congo, great apes are protected by law. However, the general public is noncompliant with and largely unaware of these laws. In conjunction with the Jane Goodall Institute, GRACE launched a poster campaign to raise awareness in communities around Tayna about the existing penalties for killing, selling, and owning great apes and about how gorillas and chimpanzees do not make good pets.