“What Makes a Community?”
This was the big question asked recently by the Calgary French and International School’s grade three class at Chevron Open Minds Zoo School. While here, they investigated many parts of the zoo community, by observing our mixed-species flock of penguins, finding endangered animals in the Canadian Wilds, and learning about the zoo’s Swift Fox conservation work. But perhaps the most significant insight into what makes a community came from travelling to the Eburu Forest in Kenya with the help of some vivid storytelling by Andrea Beaty, Zoo School Coordinator, who recently returned from the area. The students learned about how the Calgary Zoo is helping to save the mountain bongo from extinction by working with the local community.
During our ‘travels’ to the Eburu Forest, we met up with guide and community conservation expert, Donna Sheppard. She is the Calgary Zoo’s Community Conservation Specialist who is working with local people to help save the mountain bongo. There are less than 100 mountain bongo alive in the world, perhaps only 10-12 in Eburu.
Donna Sheppard has a challenging job. Alongside trackers from the local community, Donna goes into the forest to search for mountain bongo, setting camera traps in remote jungle forests to take photographs. Without community support and understanding of the conservation work being done, Donna’s job would be even more challenging. That’s why she works tremendously hard to build relationships with the local people by visiting schools and wildlife clubs with her co-worker, fellow environmental educator and local Kenyan Peter Munene. Together, Donna and Peter share the important conservation story of the mountain bongo and seek out ways to better the lives of the local people along the way. Students at Kambura-Ini School in Kenya were asked to share what they love about nature in their community. When we asked the same of our Chevron Open Minds Zoo School students, we discovered they shared some common themes: trees, mountains, forests, animals, fruit, and lakes were shown in the displays from both countries.
There is a Swahili saying in Kenya “Tupo pamoja” which means “we are all together”. When asked what makes a community, hopefully the students from Calgary French and International School will tell you that it’s working together for a common purpose. To ensure the survival of the mountain bongo and other species around the world, it certainly takes a global community.