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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field
When things come full circle
Darcy Ogada — in East Africa Project    Share

In 2009 I was based at Mpala Research Centre in central Kenya conducting research on vultures and how declines in their populations would affect other scavengers.On a hot and dusty afternoon I visited the nearby Mpala primary school.My mission was two-fold, to talk to their wildlife club about the importance of vultures and to award three of their students with prizes from our recently concluded art competition.

The author talking about vultures to the Mpala Wildlife Club in 2009

The art competition was part of our International Vulture Awareness Day celebrations and the theme was ‘the role of vultures in the cycle of life’.As you can see from the photos below, the kids were very enthusiastic and I left that vulture poster behind for their classroom.

Given that the Mpala primary school is located within the larger research centre campus, it is not unusual for researchers to visit and discuss their work on jackals, wild dogs, or whatever critter they are besotted by.

Art competition winners from Mpala Primary School 2009

Fast forward to May 2012 when I returned to Mpala Research Centre from my base about 4 hours away to give a talk at their ‘open house’ that is a venue for the community to learn about the research that goes on at the centre.During the first session we learned about the intriguing relationship between ants and elephants among other topics. At the end of the session students from the Mpala Wildlife Club took to the stage.What followed was a long, eloquent poem and dance about all the virtues of vultures, complete with background drawings!

Mpala Wildlife Club performing at Mpala Research Centre's Discovery Day 2012

I watched in amazement, here was a group of kids that decided to enlighten us by talking about vultures.In the land of elephants, lions and rhinos, this was a major conservation coup!I had barely stopped grinning from ear-to-ear when the head of the school asked me for another vulture poster.‘Yes!’ I proclaimed.‘I will even get you some vulture colouring books’, I exclaimed further.

The author giving a talk on vultures at Discovery Day 2012

I proceeded to give my talk about, vultures, of course.I explained how Africa’s vultures were in steep decline and that illegal poisoning was the primary cause for their decline.I explained that without vultures we may see an increase in diseases such as rabies being spread by feral dogs and jackals.I also spoke of the work The Peregrine Fund has been doing with local communities and stakeholders to raise awareness about the importance of vultures.

On my long drive home while my son dozed in the passenger seat, I reflected on the lessons learned from the day’s activities.Mostly, I vowed to continue seeking funds for our education work because this experience taught me that a little effort can go a long way.

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