here are approximately 8,000 people living in the region immediately surrounding Tayna Nature Reserve. Most of them have never seen a live gorilla and know nothing about these animals or their conservation status. The fact that Grauer’s gorillas are only found in DRC, making them a national treasure, is largely unappreciated. Illegal hunting, including for gorillas, occurs in this area, a practice that puts both gorillas and public health at risk. Only by sensitizing local communities and garnering their support for conservation action can GRACE’s gorilla conservation efforts succeed.
GRACE thus places a major emphasis on conservation education. With our collaborators from the Jane Goodall Institute, we conduct workshops for local educators to help them deliver conservation messages and develop teaching aids for use in their classrooms.
GRACE has a full-time educator on staff who also travels to communities to conduct sensitization programs that target both primary schoolchildren and adult community groups. Our programs are tailored to the different audience types and focus on increasing knowledge about gorillas and other local wildlife and raising awareness about their conservation status.
This work brought to our attention that many people could not correctly identify primates, often identifying a monkey as a chimpanzee or gorilla. Without first establishing this baseline knowledge, our efforts to teach about gorillas may be missing the mark. We therefore developed an educational unit to teach proper identification of adult and infant gorillas, chimpanzees, and monkeys in conjunction with teaching about the local and international laws prohibiting the trade of endangered primate species. Data show that before this program, the majority of the participants could not correctly identify primates living in Tayna. After the program, 75% of participants could correctly identify primates.