An environmental education project in Africa has been put on track thanks to the donation of a small motorbike and a pair of boots.
Paignton Zoo has supported work in the Omo Forest Reserve, Nigeria, for over 10 years. The charity funds two educators who visit local schools as well as a forest ranger.
Funds raised at the regular Paignton Zoo elephant keeper talks paid for the boots, while the motorbike was bought with a donation from the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust, the charity which runs Paignton Zoo, Living Coasts and Newquay Zoo in Cornwall.
Paignton Zoo Assistant Education Officer Sue Lowe: “Hi-tech gadgets like lap-tops and GPS are all very well, but sometimes it’s the basics that make all the difference. No amount of technology will help you when you are stuck in the mud in the middle of a tropical forest. Titus needs really strong boots as his main job is to keep the 70 kilometre boundary of the reserve clearly marked and the tracks clear.”
Sue recently visited the project along with Overseas Conservation Officer Andy Bowkett. The two spent time in the 1,300 square kilometre Omo Forest with educators Ademola and Niyi and forest ranger Titus.
“The forest roads are very bad – they are often heavily rutted and made treacherous by deep puddles. A motorbike is sometimes the only way to get around. When we were there we came across a logging truck that was stuck in the mud. It was completely blocking the road and we had to wait an hour for them to move it.”
Sue and Andy reached the forest camp run by the project in a four wheel drive vehicle belonging to another conservation organisation. “The camp is about 15 kilometres from the town and it took us about two hours! We couldn’t get all the way to the camp as the bridge was not good enough to take the truck, so we had to walk the last bit with all our gear.”
The 125cc Bajaj Boxer motorbike cost £500 new. It is the third motorcycle that the project has received. The first was bought in 2002 by money raised at Paignton Zoo’s Mistletoe Ball and was used by the educators to get to schools in the district until it became worn out – their second bike is still going strong. Other everyday objects bought for the project include rain coats, tools such as rakes and machetes and school equipment such as exercise books, pens and text books.
(from a press release)