Online exhibition: The First Journey of the New Wandering Bus

News

15. 06. 2019


The exhibition of Khalil Baalbaki’s large-format photographs maps the first ride of the new Wandering Bus in Cameroon. On the terrace of the Prague Zoo’s Education Center, the exhibition was held from 3 March to 26 May 2019, and we now offer you its online version.

The First Journey of the New Wandering Bus

Prague Zoo’s educational project in Cameroon, 
conducted in conjunction with Tropical Forest and Rural Development and the Mefou Primate Sanctuary

Photographs: Khalil Baalbaki

Text: Miroslav Bobek

Design: Marek Václavík

Cooperation: Irena Valášková

Opening of the exhibition 3 March 2019 at Prague Zoo..

 

The Wandering Bus project began in January 2013. Over time it has enabled hundreds of children from the Dja Biosphere Reserve to visit the Mefou Primate Sanctuary near Yaoundé, the country’s capital. They took part in an educational program and also were able to see Western Lowland Gorillas in the flesh. Right from the start, the most important project worker has been Jocelyn Ewane Aubery. He sets off from the base on the outskirts of Somalomo to organize each of the Wandering Bus trips.The Wandering Bus project began in January 2013. Over time it has enabled hundreds of children from the Dja Biosphere Reserve to visit the Mefou Primate Sanctuary near Yaoundé, the country’s capital. They took part in an educational program and also were able to see Western Lowland Gorillas in the flesh. Right from the start, the most important project worker has been Jocelyn Ewane Aubery. He sets off from the base on the outskirts of Somalomo to organize each of the Wandering Bus trips.

Driver Yusuf Issofa Nyundiyimum is probably the person who garners the most joy from the new Wandering Bus and its new design, because he had to spend more and more time repairing the original vehicle. However, the Wandering Bus project had to face even more serious problems than technical defects. When Yusuf’s predecessor drowned due to an unfortunate accident whilst bathing, it was necessary to rebut the idea that was circulating in Somalomo at the time that the Wandering Bus had become a victim of evil spirits.Driver Yusuf Issofa Nyundiyimum is probably the person who garners the most joy from the new Wandering Bus and its new design, because he had to spend more and more time repairing the original vehicle. However, the Wandering Bus project had to face even more serious problems than technical defects. When Yusuf’s predecessor drowned due to an unfortunate accident whilst bathing, it was necessary to rebut the idea that was circulating in Somalomo at the time that the Wandering Bus had become a victim of evil spirits.

The hall in the small commune of Messamena getting ready for a festive gathering. This began the first official journey of the new Wandering Bus. During this special meeting, Subprefect Désiré Abena Mvilongo emphasized that the children who had been on a trip with the Wandering Bus often later demanded that their parents no longer eat meat that had been poached. Obviously, not all of them managed to succeed, but even so, it holds great promise for the future. Poaching is the major threat posed to gorillas and many other animal species.The hall in the small commune of Messamena getting ready for a festive gathering. This began the first official journey of the new Wandering Bus. During this special meeting, Subprefect Désiré Abena Mvilongo emphasized that the children who had been on a trip with the Wandering Bus often later demanded that their parents no longer eat meat that had been poached. Obviously, not all of them managed to succeed, but even so, it holds great promise for the future. Poaching is the major threat posed to gorillas and many other animal species.

A group photo just before the Wandering Bus set off. Besides the sixteen children, there are also their escorts – Bernadette Munyonga, Remi Amba Langoul, Fabrice Nyebe, Jocelyn Ewane Aubery – and the local representatives. They, along with the parents and school heads, give the Wandering Bus permission to make its journeys. The first official journey of the new Wandering Bus started in Messamena on Wednesday, February 6th, 2019, at 5:30 pm.A group photo just before the Wandering Bus set off. Besides the sixteen children, there are also their escorts – Bernadette Munyonga, Remi Amba Langoul, Fabrice Nyebe, Jocelyn Ewane Aubery – and the local representatives. They, along with the parents and school heads, give the Wandering Bus permission to make its journeys. The first official journey of the new Wandering Bus started in Messamena on Wednesday, February 6th, 2019, at 5:30 pm.

Miroslav Bobek, Prague Zoo’s Director, hands out Gorilla Tales to the Wandering Bus participants. Over the last ten years more than 30,000 copies of this book have been printed and distributed among children in Central Africa and it is a big hit among both the schoolchildren and their teachers. The book means the children get to see the gorillas in a new light and not just as meat on a plate. They also gain a whole new experience from a well-made book.Miroslav Bobek, Prague Zoo’s Director, hands out Gorilla Tales to the Wandering Bus participants. Over the last ten years more than 30,000 copies of this book have been printed and distributed among children in Central Africa and it is a big hit among both the schoolchildren and their teachers. The book means the children get to see the gorillas in a new light and not just as meat on a plate. They also gain a whole new experience from a well-made book.

Through an open window of the Wandering Bus Miguel Djibril Soma shows his copy of the storybook, whose main heroes are Richard and other members of the gorilla family in Prague Zoo. The last six thousand copies for their Cameroonian peers were paid for by Czech children from Centipede – the “Movement on Own Feet”.Through an open window of the Wandering Bus Miguel Djibril Soma shows his copy of the storybook, whose main heroes are Richard and other members of the gorilla family in Prague Zoo. The last six thousand copies for their Cameroonian peers were paid for by Czech children from Centipede – the “Movement on Own Feet”.

The Wandering Bus reaches its first stop in Kabilon, and the children dine in an outdoor canteen. Both meals and accommodation are paid for, so that even children from the poorest families can take part. But this – unfortunately – doesn’t always guarantee they will take part. Some of them have to work instead of learning, and, understandably, their teachers do not want them to miss another lesson. Although the Wandering Bus’s trips are planned to make the most of free days and various holidays, every hour in school is extremely important.The Wandering Bus reaches its first stop in Kabilon, and the children dine in an outdoor canteen. Both meals and accommodation are paid for, so that even children from the poorest families can take part. But this – unfortunately – doesn’t always guarantee they will take part. Some of them have to work instead of learning, and, understandably, their teachers do not want them to miss another lesson. Although the Wandering Bus’s trips are planned to make the most of free days and various holidays, every hour in school is extremely important.

The Environmental Education Centre in Kabilon, founded by our partner organization Tropical Forest and Rural Development, has just started operation. Part of this center is a “botanical garden” or rather a nature trail that leads through the tropical rainforest. Here, at the start of the trail, Wandering Bus participants listen attentively to the explanation of why the forest is so important. Despite living de facto on its edge, they know almost nothing about it.The Environmental Education Centre in Kabilon, founded by our partner organization Tropical Forest and Rural Development, has just started operation. Part of this center is a “botanical garden” or rather a nature trail that leads through the tropical rainforest. Here, at the start of the trail, Wandering Bus participants listen attentively to the explanation of why the forest is so important. Despite living de facto on its edge, they know almost nothing about it.

The tropical rainforest with its shadowy, lush and varied vegetation and high humidity cannot be described; it’s something you must experience. And some of the first passengers on the new Wandering Bus even tasted it! They drank from freshly cut lianas. However, thanks to the local guides, everyone learned which fruits or leaves are edible, curative or otherwise beneficial. It is this stop in Kabilon, and the center’s program, that most distinguishes the new Wandering Bus from the old one, which went directly to Mefou.The tropical rainforest with its shadowy, lush and varied vegetation and high humidity cannot be described; it’s something you must experience. And some of the first passengers on the new Wandering Bus even tasted it! They drank from freshly cut lianas. However, thanks to the local guides, everyone learned which fruits or leaves are edible, curative or otherwise beneficial. It is this stop in Kabilon, and the center’s program, that most distinguishes the new Wandering Bus from the old one, which went directly to Mefou.

A model agro-forestry project was also established in Kabilon a few years ago. On the edge of the forest, cocoa trees (pictured) are scattered among more than ten other tree species, starting with avocados, moving on to oranges and the rare moabi trees, which provide an especially prized oil. Pineapples ripen in the undergrowth whilst the leaves of the new cocoyam, a local vegetable, spread out. This kind of garden enriches the local farmers’ diets whilst giving them the opportunity to earn some extra money.A model agro-forestry project was also established in Kabilon a few years ago. On the edge of the forest, cocoa trees (pictured) are scattered among more than ten other tree species, starting with avocados, moving on to oranges and the rare moabi trees, which provide an especially prized oil. Pineapples ripen in the undergrowth whilst the leaves of the new cocoyam, a local vegetable, spread out. This kind of garden enriches the local farmers’ diets whilst giving them the opportunity to earn some extra money.

In Kabilon the children are introduced to a demonstration of an agro-forestry project and they are advised what crops they could grow at home in the garden. The fight against poaching, and nature conservation in general, is based on three pillars: (1) the law and its enforcement, which should primarily be ensured by “ecoguards”, (2) education and awareness raising, and (3) offering alternative sources of livelihood, or extra income. By means of our Wandering Bus, we are now trying to strengthen the second and, in part, the third of these pillars.In Kabilon the children are introduced to a demonstration of an agro-forestry project and they are advised what crops they could grow at home in the garden. The fight against poaching, and nature conservation in general, is based on three pillars: (1) the law and its enforcement, which should primarily be ensured by “ecoguards”, (2) education and awareness raising, and (3) offering alternative sources of livelihood, or extra income. By means of our Wandering Bus, we are now trying to strengthen the second and, in part, the third of these pillars.

The new Wandering Bus heads for the capital Yaoundé along dusty and bumpy tracks. The ride itself is a great experience for the kids, especially when the bus drives on asphalt roads and runs through the towns. For the first time in their lives the children see multi-storied buildings or a petrol station.The new Wandering Bus heads for the capital Yaoundé along dusty and bumpy tracks. The ride itself is a great experience for the kids, especially when the bus drives on asphalt roads and runs through the towns. For the first time in their lives the children see multi-storied buildings or a petrol station.

The Wandering Bus has reached the main destination of its journey – the Mefou Primate Sanctuary – and the children first go through a training program. They studiously take notes, as Jocelyn not only organizes the Wandering Bus journey, but he also tries to ensure the kids get as much from it as possible. So, he also tests them on what they’ve learnt. In the future, all the project’s participants, as well as their classmates, should have the opportunity to further expand their knowledge in local eco-clubs.The Wandering Bus has reached the main destination of its journey – the Mefou Primate Sanctuary – and the children first go through a training program. They studiously take notes, as Jocelyn not only organizes the Wandering Bus journey, but he also tries to ensure the kids get as much from it as possible. So, he also tests them on what they’ve learnt. In the future, all the project’s participants, as well as their classmates, should have the opportunity to further expand their knowledge in local eco-clubs.

The Wandering Bus participants head for the gorillas. Although these children live on the edge of the Dja Reservation, not one of them has seen live gorillas – in contrast, we would probably not find one that has not tasted gorilla. Bushmeat, i.e. wild animal meat, is very popular in Cameroon. This is one of the reasons why poaching is so widespread, despite the fact that many animal species, including gorillas, are protected by Cameroonian law.The Wandering Bus participants head for the gorillas. Although these children live on the edge of the Dja Reservation, not one of them has seen live gorillas – in contrast, we would probably not find one that has not tasted gorilla. Bushmeat, i.e. wild animal meat, is very popular in Cameroon. This is one of the reasons why poaching is so widespread, despite the fact that many animal species, including gorillas, are protected by Cameroonian law.

The Mefou Primate Sanctuary, situated not far from Yaoundé, cares for orphaned or wounded gorillas and chimps. They all come here as babies confiscated by poachers or people who have bought them as pets. The facility was set up in 1996 and is supported, among other things, by some European zoos. Its remit also includes developing educational programs for children from nearby schools – and, thanks to the Wandering Bus, from the surroundings of the Dja Biosphere Reserve.The Mefou Primate Sanctuary, situated not far from Yaoundé, cares for orphaned or wounded gorillas and chimps. They all come here as babies confiscated by poachers or people who have bought them as pets. The facility was set up in 1996 and is supported, among other things, by some European zoos. Its remit also includes developing educational programs for children from nearby schools – and, thanks to the Wandering Bus, from the surroundings of the Dja Biosphere Reserve.

The Gorilla Tales book has already introduced the children to Prague Zoo’s Richard. In a few moments, they will meet another gorilla male. His fate, however, is very sad. His name is Shufai and he came to Mefou as an infant, after his mother was killed by poachers, and he himself was shot. He underwent treatment and a long, demanding period of recuperation. Despite this, after a while, he suffered further serious complications, and his left arm had to be amputated above the elbow.The Gorilla Tales book has already introduced the children to Prague Zoo’s Richard. In a few moments, they will meet another gorilla male. His fate, however, is very sad. His name is Shufai and he came to Mefou as an infant, after his mother was killed by poachers, and he himself was shot. He underwent treatment and a long, demanding period of recuperation. Despite this, after a while, he suffered further serious complications, and his left arm had to be amputated above the elbow.

Finally, we’re at the gorillas, what’s more with an experienced guide! Ediane Fanka provides the children with information that would be quite obvious to most visitors of European zoos, but this is different. However, as far as fascination with gorillas is concerned, Cameroonian children are not one iota less enthusiastic than their European counterparts. And when Ediane offers the gorillas food, thus arousing them into activity, the children have an experience that will last them a lifetime.Finally, we’re at the gorillas, what’s more with an experienced guide! Ediane Fanka provides the children with information that would be quite obvious to most visitors of European zoos, but this is different. However, as far as fascination with gorillas is concerned, Cameroonian children are not one iota less enthusiastic than their European counterparts. And when Ediane offers the gorillas food, thus arousing them into activity, the children have an experience that will last them a lifetime.

The participants and organizers of the first official journey of the Wandering Bus. Children from Messamena from left: Davilla, Lynce, Miguel, Valentine, Pauline, Regine, Olvie, Loic, Farel, Emmanuel, Nye, Farrelle, Kevin, Daylor and Camille. Last row from the left: Jocelyn Ewane Aubery, Prague Zoo staff Irena Valášková, Nina Petříková and Miroslav Bobek, guide for the children from Messamena Remi Amba Langoul, employee of the Mefou Primate Sanctuary Ediane Fanka and another guide for the children Bernadette Munyonga.The participants and organizers of the first official journey of the Wandering Bus. Children from Messamena from left: Davilla, Lynce, Miguel, Valentine, Pauline, Regine, Olvie, Loic, Farel, Emmanuel, Nye, Farrelle, Kevin, Daylor and Camille. Last row from the left: Jocelyn Ewane Aubery, Prague Zoo staff Irena Valášková, Nina Petříková and Miroslav Bobek, guide for the children from Messamena Remi Amba Langoul, employee of the Mefou Primate Sanctuary Ediane Fanka and another guide for the children Bernadette Munyonga.

The Wandering Bus leaves the Mefou Primate Sanctuary. The children can still look forward to a visit to a small zoo in Yaoundé, and then the long journey home. They will be full of their experiences from the journey for a long time to come, however Jocelyn and Prague Zoo’s workers will immediately start working on preparing another ride on the Wandering Bus. You have already supported their endeavors by visiting Prague Zoo, but we are grateful for any additional contribution to the “We Help Them to Survive” collection account – IBAN: CZ2401000000436804660247, SWIFT: KOMBCZPPXXX.The Wandering Bus leaves the Mefou Primate Sanctuary. The children can still look forward to a visit to a small zoo in Yaoundé, and then the long journey home. They will be full of their experiences from the journey for a long time to come, however Jocelyn and Prague Zoo’s workers will immediately start working on preparing another ride on the Wandering Bus. You have already supported their endeavors by visiting Prague Zoo, but we are grateful for any additional contribution to the “We Help Them to Survive” collection account – IBAN: CZ2401000000436804660247, SWIFT: KOMBCZPPXXX.

Press release: The new Wandering Bus has started to fulfil its mission

Gorilla Conservation in Africa