School field trip for World Wildlife Day

Blog by International intern, Christin Winter

School trip for World Wildlife Day

“What is the importance of wildlife?“ – “Income”, “food” and “Tourism”. These were the answers I got from the pupils of class 8 at the Kileva Eastfield Primary School in Sagalla. Not wrong at all, but is that everything? Besides all the benefits us humans can get so obviously and directly from our wild neighbors, there are hundreds of other far more important reasons why we need to preserve wildlife. All coming down to the fact, that if we want to live a healthy life and keep having a healthy place for our children, we need to take care of our environment now.

How can you find a way to let the Kenyan youth understand the importance to preserve their wild if they do not have any connection to it? If the only image of an elephant is a huge scary shadow coming at night, raiding your family’s crops? How can you show them the beauty of their home and the need to remember their own tradition?

Elephants and Bees Project started to work with the school in 2009 but only recently started to conduct constructive Environmental Education lessons. We are now working on a new way for the children to learn about wildlife through weekly Wednesday afternoon lessons that are run by interns and students on the project. We are convinced, once the children have more knowledge about the wonders of nature, they will be more interested to protect it. After a series of our successful Wednesday afternoon lessons with class 8, talking about conservation and educating about wildlife, we decided to celebrate “World Wildlife Day 2015” with the pupils and organized a safari trip to the Rukinga Sanctuary, cooperating with Wildlife Works.

This is the 1st trip The Elephants and Bees Project has done with the school and everyone was very excited, especially the children. Wildlife Works donated the use of the truck to fit 16 pupils, 2 teachers and 6 staff and interns from both STE and Wildlife Works education team. The truck’s fuel, transport to Rukinga in a bus, food, water and a mid-day snack was funded by our friends from the Disney Worldwide Conservation fund.

Kids on truck

Wednesday morning, 9am off we go, the truck packed with water, juice, snacks and lunch, and 25 excited people, discovering Rukinga and the work that is done in that area. Shortly after we started we encountered Maasai Giraffes, Buffalos, Zebras and finally Elephants. A big aggregation of up to 40 elephant bulls approaching a waterhole. The truck was down wind to them, so they were aware of us, smelling the air and approached very, very carefully. The children were quiet and silently watched the bulls of all sizes and shapes slowly reaching the water. Ears spread wide, stopping after every 2nd step, listening, smelling. The children were given a couple of activity papers, on which they could tick of all the different sounds and behavior displays they witnessed by the elephants. This was a perfect sighting for them to study elephant behavior first hand. They watched them behaving around the water very careful, starting to trust the car, greeting each other, drinking and splashing water, flapping the ears etc.

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After about 30 minutes we decided to leave them alone and moved on. We discussed the witnessed elephant behavior and identification of elephant gender directly afterwards with the pupils. Everybody seemed happy and very curious about the animals. As we moved on, the children encountered different animal species, like Grant’s gazelle, Dik dik, Lesser Kudu and discussed the visible effects cattle bomas had on the environment. A snack break was enjoyed at noon and afterwards everyone rested in the shade we went on a little “footprint – treasure hunt“. I circled tracks of different animals, like lion, striped hyena, jackal, giraffe, zebra and of course elephant. It turned out that everyone was having a great time and had lots of fun trying to identify the tracks with help of the footprint-activity-paper I had prepared for the trip. Some children were already very talented elephant-trackers. We measured tracks, discussed the difference between ruminants, zebra and elephant droppings and were all motivated to find some more signs of the wild. We then got back on the truck to continued the safari.

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Kids with poo!

Lunch was served at the Tsavo Research Camp. Everyone was very hungry and after we had a bit of a relaxing time, we got to see the collection of skulls, reptiles, insects and arthropods the camp had to offer. The ranger got news, that there were lions not far from where we had been, so we quickly packed our stuff and jumped back on the truck, looking for the lions. As we approached the area they have seen them just before, everyone went silent and had a good look around. Unfortunately none could spot them. Then the truck’s battery went flat! Everybody off the back – the truck needed to be pushed so the driver could jump-start it! Interesting, that these car break downs always seem to happen when lions are supposed to be around…… Everybody pushed hard and after a couple of tries we managed to get the truck rolling and the driver was able to start it. It turned out to be quite a good “bonding“ experience for everyone and the children were excited about the little adventure they found themselves in.

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The safari was getting to an end, as it was almost 5pm. We made our way back to the office and discussed the highlights of the trip. Everybody had an amazing time, learnt a lot about their environment and had fun ticking off the species and footprint lists they got given. I hope the trip inspired some of the pupils of the Kileva Eastfield Primary School to try their best to preserve their beautiful environment. Who knows, maybe one or more of them may be our future conservationists, field guides or rangers, sharing their knowledge of wildlife with other people. The trip was a success and we are encouraged to continue our work on conservation education with the school!

Thank you to Wildlife Works and Disney’s Animal Kingdom for funding this wonderful Save the Elephants’ – Elephants and Bees Project field trip to celebrate World Wildlife Day!

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