CCP Volunteers Testimonies

Mentor a child to protect the threatened National Parks and Wildlife Reserves

Save Children Save Environment

My volunteering experience in Uganda, 15.11.2021 – 27.11.2021

I am a lover of animals, wildlife, and nature. I protect mother nature as good as possible and saving animal lives is important to me. I was in Africa before and I always admired the impressive wildlife. Habitat loss and poaching drive many species towards extinction. Corona-restrictions has a bad impact on the economy and this again has a very bad impact on people’s businesses. Many people rely on tourism but the pandemic caused a halt there and it’s recovering only slowly. The absence of income and no financial support from the government leads to an increase of poaching and other illegal activities in protected areas and national parks. I am Conservation Network Ambassador and I heard about the anti-poaching campaign of CCP. I decided to support it on site. I collected some donations and off I went on a two weeks mission to Uganda. Vincent and I cruised around for two weeks in the name of the anti-poaching campaign of CCP.

The goal was to visit 3 youth groups (elephant, buffalo and lion group) close to Queen Elizabeth NP (Kasese area), a school and a handcrafts group near Semiliki NP (Bundibugyo) and of course some time to enjoy Uganda’s Wildlife. The youth are the primary target as they need support for business ideas to generate income to avoid poaching activities. Elephant and lion group are mixed groups while Buffalo group members are teenage mothers only. Those three groups requested machines to sell food so Vincent and I went shopping in Kampala and bought 3 deep-frying machines and 3 popcorn machines. It was a very adventurous act to transport the machines in the bus from Kampala to Fort Portal.

From Fort Portal we went to Semiliki NP to visit hot Springs – the male and the female hot spring. The hot springs are pretty and really hot – eggs were cooked in 5 minutes. On the walk around the springs, I had a chat with a park ranger. He admitted that poaching is a problem and that their options to prevent poaching are limited because their headcount is low. They have some informants who help the rangers to supervise the area but most illegal activities remain undiscovered.

I went to Kibale National Park to see Chimpanzees in the wild…. We found them in the bush and it was impressive. They were resting on the ground… later they continued into their feeding tree. There too, I had a chat with our guide /park ranger. She told me that poaching activities against the chimps are very rare as their number gets monitored and are stable or increase. The primates are not a primary target for meat and products are not easy to sale. Penalties are very high. I hope it’s true what she said.

We bought about 130 trees in the botanical garden of Fort portal to plant around Little Angels Primary School in Bundibugyo. 100 Eucalyptus trees (for construction and fire wood) and 30 Fruit trees (5 Mango, 15 Guava and 10 Jambula) to provide snacks for the kids. About 80 kids were expecting us to participate the tree planting… J We also delivered beans and posho (Corn flower) to the local women crafts group – the basket makers. This group is part of an association that contains various working groups: tailoring and carpeting, goat keeping, basketmaking, bee keeping. The associations’ goal is to generate income and to protect the near national park. Debbie, a daughter of the owners of the school, took me sight-seeing in the area around the school.  Every garden was used to grow coffee, Cacao, Mango, Avocado, Vanilla and fruits and vegetables for consumption or for sale. Chicken and children were everywhere to see. She showed me the little palm oil factory with two manually operated oil presses. I tasted roasted palm fruits with salt – very oily and yummy.

From Kasese we visited Elephant, Buffalo and Lion group. Elephant and Buffalo group performed amazingly for us. Singing, dancing and a drama was performed. Members of all groups face the same faith: young, attending school is irregular and not sure, most girls have children and their future is uncertain. But all of them want to change something, get educated and protect the national parks and its wildlife. They want to have jobs and generate income for their families without poaching and harming the national parks. It’s clear, that they need a lot of support as recourses (money) lacks everywhere.

With the Lion group I had a chance to talk to a former Poacher. He gave up poaching of water buffalos and Hippos in 2016. He quit the poaching activities because park rangers became more successful in hunting down poachers and 6 of his poaching mates got killed. So, he decided to not continue because of the higher risk of getting killed. He never felt bad when he killed protected and endangered animals as his massive family needed food. So, he thought it was justified. This conversation shows clearly how important it is, that we target children and youth and not adults. The youth have more compassion for the animals and want to protect the wildlife because they think its precious and that an alive animal values more than a dead one.

The buffalo group is fairly good organized as they have a mentor and they already produce sandals and clothes. The bottom of the sandals are made from old car tires – I bought a pair as a souvenir. As I alreasy mentioned earlier are the members of the buffalo group teenage mothers and they have between 1 and 3 children, are not married and non of the kids have the same father. To me this shows the root cause of the poaching problem: too early reproduction in too high numbers. Families are too big and they don’t’ have the resources to get their children properly educated. So I went back to buffalo group to address the topic of family planning. A quick chat turned out to an over an hour talk. The girls don’t get seriously educated about biology and to talk about sex is a tabu topic. Pregnancies result from unprotected sex of prostitution, rape and “fun”. Most girls experienced sexual assaults and most of them didn’t report as they were ashamed. I have to admit that their stories were rather upsetting. Girls need to get educated about their bodies, encouraged to insist on the use of condoms and to have the courage to oppose against horny men. They also need to get more protection against sexual assaults as well as support to report in case it happens. To have children later, in smaller numbers and only when they want to have children is the key to a better future for everybody.

I treated myself at the end of my mission for a few days in the Queen Elizabeth Bush Lodge in the bush. It is a beautiful place located at the Kazinga Channel away from villages and people. Accommodation is simple, bungalows and tents. I slept in a tent and could hear the hippos grazing in the night. An elephant visited the camp on an afternoon and just broke of half a tree to have a snack. participated a river cruise and 2 game drives and I saw buffalos, hypos, elephants, antelopes and a hyena as well as different birds. I was again impressed by Africans big animals. It really needs go get conserved for the future.

Those two weeks were interesting, impressive but also disillusioning. I realized that what we are doing is drop of water in the ocean. We want to help those young people to get in charge of their lives for a future in harmony with wildlife. But the number of people affected is unbelievable high. Far too many people’s needs need to get accommodated and considered to have a serious impact on conservation of the wild animals and their habitats. We can only support a small number of youth and we can only have a bigger influence when people stop multiplying like rabbits. The root cause of this problem is lack of family planning. Poverty and very low level of education. This again leads to unemployment and often poaching. Education is needed to rise conservationists, to avoid teenage pregnancies, to have smaller families. Donations are needed to support start-up businesses. Only education of the youth in conservation and sexual matters in combination with financial support for new business enterprises can save wild animals from extinction and protect their habitats.

Carmen Fenner

CCP volunteer

Make a gift to protect Africa’s most vulnerable species.
Scroll to Top