A Springwood man has returned from remote Kenya after participating in a grass roots conservation project with a Maasai community school.
Denis Grace, owner of Africa with Grace Safaris, spent a week last month working on a community project at the doorsteps to the Maasai Mara National Park.
With a group of four other Australian volunteers, he took the entire Ole Keene School of 250 students in the national park to “inspire conservation and educate them the wonders of Kenya’s wildlife”.
The reserve hosts some 95 species of mammals, 570 species of birds, but importantly the ‘big five’ – lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and the leopard.
“The donations [of $5,500] from generous Australian businesses and citizens paid for the entire school to have their very first excursion into the Maasai Mara National Park,” Mr Grace said.
“It also paid for food for the school, and a buffalo proof fence to protect the school children from marauding wildlife.”
Over the past ten years Africa has seen some of its worst poaching ever. Elephants, rhinos and other iconic wildlife have been killed to supply a lucrative criminal industry that has become the fourth largest criminal activity behind the trafficking of drugs, guns and humans, Mr Grace said.
“At the same time improvements to poverty and education in Africa has stagnated opportunities for criminal organisations to recruit desperate African locals to commit these hideous poaching crimes.”
Mr Grace has been taking tours to Africa for a decade and hopes his efforts at grass roots conservation might encourage a deeper appreciation – perhaps even save an elephant’s life – and “hopefully negate any desperate need to poach”.
“Some of the children were so excited about the day they turned up two hours early to school.”
Encouraging the children to stay at school to learn through breakfast projects and this day out at a national park, worked on ensuring they stayed longer to learn English, Swahili and Maasai, which opened up more opportunities for them to work in the tourist industry around the Maasai Mara, he said.
In previous years Mr Grace helped fund and build two long-drop toilets for the Sekenani village to help with sanitation.
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