The North Carolina Zoo believes in the power of education both for our visitors and as part of our international conservation efforts. Through our UNITE program, which has operated around Uganda’s Kibale National Park for more than 18 years, the Zoo is training Ugandan teachers to be better environmental educators and stewards.
Kibale is a critically important conservation area with the highest density of primates in all of Africa, including the largest chimpanzee population in East Africa and the only viable population of the Endangered Ashy red colobus monkey. Recently, the Zoo expanded efforts to neighboring Queen Elizabeth National Park, which, together with Kibale, forms a continuous forest corridor that is critically important for the conservation of many African wildlife species, including lions, leopards, elephants, and chimpanzees.
Sustainable, Community-driven Environmental Education
The North Carolina Zoo’s UNITE program provides Ugandan communities with quality conservation education programming rooted in science and culture that addresses environmental needs with appropriate sustainable solutions. To do this, UNITE employs four Ugandan staff members yearround to work in close collaboration with 28 schools within a five-km radius around Kibale and Queen Elizabeth National Parks. UNITE staff empower teachers to enhance their teaching methods, incorporate more environmental topics into the classroom, and help the local community reduce their impact on the neighboring national parks. These objectives are accomplished through a combination of teacher workshops (Training manuals from the teacher workshops), school field trips, one-on-one work with head teachers, and creation of conservation clubs, all of which are carefully monitored and evaluated through classroom observations, student evaluations, and school and home visits. With our support, teachers, their students, and their communities are better protecting the forests and wildlife that they live alongside.
An Award-Winning Program
The UNITE for the Environment has received several awards in recognition of the work we do with communities to make a difference for conservation. For example, in 2015, UNITE staff member Tinka John was awarded the Disney Conservation Hero Award in recognition for his efforts to protect wildlife and wild places and engage communities in conservation, and the program was awarded a substantial Disney Conservation Fund grant. Then, in 2017, UNITE staff member Bruce Ainebyona was awarded the Charles Southwick Conservation Education Commitment Award by the International Primatological Society in recognition of his commitment to conservation education and the success of our UNITE program.
Partners: Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Kibale National Park, Uganda Wildlife Authority