Cameroon is one of the last places on earth still home to wild gorillas and chimpanzees. Sadly, much of the local population is unaware of this rich biodiversity and has never even seen a live gorilla. This lack of knowledge and appreciation makes achieving conservation action in the area a great challenge. Luckily, an organization called Ape Action Africa is focusing its efforts on bringing gorillas and chimpanzees back from the brink of extinction.
The organization is the largest gorilla sanctuary in Africa and home to more than 300 confiscated primates rescued from the illegal bushmeat and pet trades. Caring for these animals is no small task since they often suffer from machete and gunshot wounds, injuries from ropes and chains, starvation and dehydration. Each recovered animal is provided emergency and ongoing medical care, physical and psychological rehabilitation, socialization, and a long-term home in 2,500 acres of protected rainforest. Since rescued animals are often traumatized, orphans receive 24-hour care until they’ve recovered and are strong enough to join social groups.
However, in order to achieve long-term success for the species, it will be necessary to give our next generation of leaders an appreciation of the interdependence of humans and wildlife. In an effort to achieve this goal, Ape Action Africa created a project that reunites 900 of Cameroons children with their unique environmental heritage through day-long Rainforest Experiences in the Mefou National Park. This area is home to more than 300 endangered primates – including 18 gorillas and over 100 chimpanzees. The sanctuary is open to the public and often gives the people of Cameroon their first opportunity to experience the wonders of the forest – not just the chance to see gorillas and chimpanzees - but also towering trees, rare flowering plants, shrubs and vines, and rivers and swamps. Bringing children into this “rainforest classsroom” gives vibrant life to schoolroom lessons and supplies our future stewards with an intense connection to the rich, natural world that surrounds them.
Participants in this project are children from the public schools in eight rural villages surrounding the park. Educators provide formal classroom instruction in environmental education to an average of 100 to 125 students per school- encouraging them to adopt environmentally sustainable practices now and as they grow. The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund supported two projects from Ape Action Africa in 2011 - and is pleased to assist with its efforts to preserve this area’s rich biodiversity.