Date: 22 July 2013 By: News Correspondent
The Durham University Primate and Predator Project is enjoying local participation of Earthwatch teams this year through a Community Fellow grant from Earthwatch International.
The Primate and Predator Project, which was established in 2011, is based at Lajuma Research Centre in the western Soutpansberg Mountains. The project aims to increase the understanding of the ecology and the status of biodiversity within the Soutpansberg mountain range and to develop strategies to mitigate human-wildlife conflict and enhance the conservation potential of the region.
The project works in partnership with the Earthwatch Institute, which recruits international volunteers for short periods throughout the year. These volunteers contribute to the project, both physically and financially. In 2013, the project was given the opportunity to invite local people to join the Earthwatch teams as Community Fellows. A grant of 15 local people who would not normally be able to join the Earthwatch expedition was received.
Thus far, eight local people have benefitted from funded placements on the Earthwatch teams. The local participants have included University of Venda and University of South Africa students, staff from research centres in Limpopo Province, and young people completing conservation-based internships. The volunteers helped with camera trapping, scat analysis, primate data collection and vegetation sampling.
All the volunteers have the opportunity to go to local schools to participate in an environmental education day through Eco-schools. This is an integral part of all Earthwatch teams and the children love meeting Earthwatch volunteers from all over the world. This time, however, the children worked with international volunteers and also with people who were from the same community as them and who spoke their language. This was an inspiring experience for them. During previous Eco-schools days, the children learnt a lot and gained a great deal but perhaps never felt like they could relate too closely to the volunteers. This time they met Earthwatch volunteers who were local and who had gone on to achieve amazing things such as PhDs and jobs in conservation. The children and their teachers found this very inspirational and meeting them has possibly helped the children realise that they too can achieve so much.
The Community Fellow opportunities have helped local participants to gain a great deal. They commented on the amount of information they learned about nature and conservation, as well as how to apply scientific methods. It was also a wonderful cultural exchange between local and international participants. One local volunteer commented: “We didn’t have time to do everything that needed doing, which leaves the gate open for a second visit to Lajuma.” The Primate and Predator Project staff are looking forward to working with further participants this year that will benefit just as much from the Community Fellow grant.
Correspondent journalists from all over the region supply us with news and sport articles.