Translate the Club P.A.N. blog

‎"A mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions." - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Quick update on the snail farm

Claudia Borchers, who is in the Tai region right now working with Club P.A.N. and the snail farm, updates us with the following:
Hi all,

After another visit of our snail farm in Sakré last week I'm happy to present you some new photos. Everything is working well and the eggs are now already 3-4cm big snails. I was quite surprised that they already as big as they are! they are only 5 month old, but that means that they can really sell them when they are one year old! Beside this we have again a new clutch and baby snails will hatch soon. The project is a real success and I (in behalf of the conservation group) would like to thank again everybody that contributed!

To read more about the snail farm microproject see our previous entries HERE

Thursday, August 26, 2010

More funders for 2010-2011 Club P.A.N. school year!

Club P.A.N. has been awarded a $4600 (USD) grant from DierenPark Amersfoort Wildlife Fund, a $2000 (USD) grant from Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, a 5000 £ Rufford Small Grant, a 1000€ grant from Zoo am Meer Bremerhaven, a $1725 (USD) grant from Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund and 1080€ from the Johannes Kepler Gymnasium Leipzig to run Club P.A.N. in 2010-2011!

We would like to thank our returning funders and welcome our new collaborators into the Club P.A.N. family! Thank You so much for your generosity and support!

Club P.A.N. 2009-2010 update

The 2009-2010 Club P.A.N. school year ended well and evaluations are going to be analyzed in the next month!

We are very happy to announce that Club P.A.N. succesfully expanded two new schools (in Daobly and Amaragui) which welcomed two new teachers and 120 new students to the nature clubs. Thus in 2009-2010, 12 schools with over 800 students participated in Club P.A.N.. All teachers attended two teacher training workshops and the vast majority of parents and relatives celebrated the parent's days with us. We also had parent's evenings this year, a new nature club session just for parents!

Our African Giant Snail Farm micro-project in the Club P.A.N. school of Sakré has also been successful! In January 2010, the farm was build with 6 enclosures and a starting population of 40 adult breeding snails. By May 2010, the adult snails had laid their first eggs and from these eggs the first baby snails already hatched. In July 2010, the adult snails laid another clutch of eggs (circled in red below). We thank the Sakré Club P.A.N. students and teachers who have worked so hard to make this micro project such a big success and the generous private donors who funded the project!

Sadly, Emile Gnepa, our Zirigilo Club P.A.N. teacher passed away this year in May. Mr. Gnepa was not only an excellent and motivated Club P.A.N. teacher from 2007-present, but also a teacher hired by the WCF to teach the everyday curriculum to the students of the E.P.P. Ziriglo school. For the coming school year we received applications from two other teachers in Ziriglo to lead the nature clubs. Mr. Gnepa's legacy will live on in all the students he taught and inspired during his too brief time with us.
Emile Gnepa with his Club P.A.N. students

Finally we would once again like to thank the funders for the 2009-2010 Club P.A.N. school year: US Fish and Wildlife Service Great Ape Conservation Fund (USFW GACF), the Oregon Zoo, the Columbus Zoo & Spreadshirt and Zoo am Meer Bremerhaven. Without their generous support our work would not be possible. Thank You.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Rest in Peace Emile Gnepa, Club P.A.N. Ziriglo and W.C.F. teacher

We are so very sad to announce that Emile Gnepa passed away on May 4th 2010.

Emile was not only a Club P.A.N. teacher from 2007-present, but also a teacher hired by the W.C.F. to teach the everyday curriculum to the students of the E.P.P. Ziriglo school. He was an excellent and motivated teacher and it will be extremely difficult to follow in his footsteps. He taught the first five Club P.A.N. lessons this year in Ziriglo (January-February 2010) and the remaining five lessons will now be lead by Club P.A.N.'s local coordinator Ouattara Dabila. The 2009-2010 Club P.A.N. school year will end in May and it is so sad that it ends like this.

Our condolences go out to Emile's family, friends and students. He was a great teacher and Club P.A.N. is the poorer for losing him. He will be greatly missed by all.

Please see below for a few images from Emile's classes over the past 4 years.

Nous sommes tristes de vous annoncer la mort d'Émile Gnepa le 4 mai dernier.

Émile était non seulement un professeur pour le Club P.A.N. depuis 2007, mais aussi un professeur permanent engagé par la WCF pour enseigner à l'école de Ziriglo. Il était très motivé et un excellent professeur. De ce fait, il sera extrêment difficle de trouver un remplaçant à sa hauteur. Il a animé les cinq premières leçons du Club P.A.N. cette année (janvier et février 2010) à Ziriglo et maintenant les cing dernières leçons seront animées par le coordonateur local du Club P.A.N., Ouattara Dabila. Les animations du Club P.A.N. pour l'année 2009-2010 se termineront à la fin mai, il est ainsi malheureux de finir cette année avec ce triste événement.

Nos sincères condoléances vont à la famille d'Émile, ses amis et élèves. Il était un professeur exemplaire et le Club P.A.N. se retrouve perdant de par ce tragique sort du destin.

Veuillez regarger ci-dessous pour des images de la classe d'Émile au cours des dernières années.

(Thanks to Genevieve Campbell for the french translation)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In the News: WCS' Snail Farms in the Cross River Region of Nigeria

From Discovery News
Snails Are Saving Endangered Gorillas
by Jennifer Viegas

Humble snails are helping to prevent Cross River gorilla poaching in Nigeria, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The WCS has just launched a new program that promotes snail farming, which helps local people generate income, provides an alternative source of animal protein, and hopefully will eliminate illegal hunting of what is Africa’s rarest and most endangered great ape.

Eight former gorilla hunters were selected from four villages to participate in the new initiative. With help from the WCS, they've constructed snail pens, each of which was stocked with 230 African giant snails. Because of the snail’s high protein content, coupled with low maintenance costs, quick results, and easy replication, snail farming is expected to catch on quickly.

Just as French chefs prize snails, locals there view these gastropods as a delicacy and the high demand for them in villages and larger communities makes the prospect of farming viable.

“People living near Cross River gorillas have trouble finding alternative sources of income and food and that’s why they poach,” said James Deutsch, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Africa program. “We are working with them to test many livelihood alternatives, but perhaps the most promising, not to mention novel, is snail farming.”

Once thought to be extinct, Cross River gorillas were rediscovered in the 1980s. The most endangered of the African apes, Cross River gorillas now number less than 300. Even if just a handful are taken as bushmeat, the killings can really put a dent in the gorilla's already weakened population.

Get this: The operation cost per year for each snail farmer, after necessary replacement of nets and cement and labor costs, is estimated at only $87. The profit, after expenses, with the sale of an average of 1500 snails per bi-annual harvest, is estimated at $413 per year. The meat of one gorilla, on the other hand, fetches about $70.

“Cross-River gorillas depend on law enforcement and conservation efforts to survive,” says Andrew Dunn, WCS Nigeria Country Director. “The work of WCS and our dedicated field-staff to develop alternate livelihoods for local poachers is just one step on the road to recovery for these incredible animals.”

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Minnesota Zoo's conservation commitment

The Minnesota Zoo generously funded Club P.A.N. from 2008-2009 and as you can see from the article below has a firm commitment to conservation and education.

from Minnesota Monthly
New Zoo
The Minnesota Zoo has never had gorillas, lions, elephants, or rhinos—and still won’t after its first permanent African exhibit opens this month. But does that matter anymore?
By Tim Gihring

At a recent meet-and-greet held by the Minnesota Zoo, a host of its most monied backers mingled at the Minneapolis Club—far from the animals in Apple Valley. They breakfasted on eggs and sausage amid dark-paneled walls and oil paintings, looking up now and then at a PowerPoint presentation led by the zoo’s director, Lee Ehmke. Eventually, Ehmke paused on a slide depicting lions, gorillas, and the quarterback Brett Favre. What did the animals and the aging athlete have in common? Ehmke explained that they were all large, crowd-pleasing animals, or—in zookeeper’s parlance—“charismatic mega-vertebrates.”

Since the zoo opened, in 1978, it has often been faulted for its distinct lack of such beasts, the sort that visitors to many other zoos take for granted: elephants, rhinoceroses, and yes, lions and gorillas. The Minnesota Zoo has even been accused of not “being complete,” as one legislator put it years ago, raising questions of what a contemporary zoo should look like.

At the meet-and-greet, Ehmke, who has run the zoo since 2000, offered a simple explanation for the big animals’ absence: They’re expensive, both to acquire and to keep, especially African animals and particularly in Minnesota’s climate. The zoo has an annual operating budget of only about $19 million, supplied in part by a fickle state legislature—much less than the budget of other Midwestern zoos, such as those in St. Louis and Milwaukee. “We’re a small-market group,” Ehmke told the zoo’s backers.

But what if the zoo could become more than the sum of its smallish parts? Continuing the slide show, Ehmke flipped to images of the species that will be showcased in “Faces of the African Forest,” opening this month as the zoo’s first permanent exhibit of African animals. Zoo officials say the attraction will be a model, in some ways, for future zoo exhibits and could goose attendance this summer to a record high. The animals include two species of monkeys, fruit bats, rock hyrax (gopher-like creatures), dwarf crocodiles, and Ehmke’s favorite—red river hogs.

From his office at the zoo, Lee Ehmke can see the facility’s empty and crumbling whale tank, a reminder of the zoo’s controversial relationship with big animals. The zoo opened in what many zoo directors now refer to as the “utopian period” of zoo-building, characterized by wide-open, natural spaces—“500 acres and a monorail,” Ehmke muses. It was a reaction to the tile-and-bars aesthetic of many zoo exhibits at the time, such as the Milwaukee Zoo’s quarters for Samson, the largest gorilla ever in captivity: a linoleum cell with a glass wall that he would vigorously assault with all of his 650 pounds. The Minnesota Zoo was conceived as the area’s “new zoo,” in contrast to St. Paul’s Como Zoo, which was smaller and more old-fashioned at the time. It was designed to be, at 485 acres, the most spacious, modern exhibition in the country and planners estimated that the concept would easily draw 2.5 million visitors annually—4 million by the year 2000—and become self-sustaining within a few years.

The execution was less impressive. Only a third of the proposed exhibits were ever built. The contemporary concrete architecture was beyond stark—“Brutalist,” Ehmke calls it—and visitors had difficulty spotting the animals, lounging deep in their pens. Moreover, the creatures were largely unexotic: deer, raccoons, and the like. The zoo’s most charismatic animals, introduced at the opening, were two beluga whales. After they were shipped to the San Diego Zoo in 1987 for health reasons, attendance—which had never topped 1 million visitors—went into a free fall.

In a 1987 report, zoo officials argued that within the “conservation-minded framework” of progressive zoos, “the absence of some of the charismatic mega-vertebrates will no longer be perceived as a deficiency.” Whales, gorillas, rhinos—“All real big, exciting animals,” an official clarified—wouldn’t be missed. But legislators felt duped. When the zoo instead proposed an exhibit of insects, lawmakers declared that the institution had succumbed to “academic elitism.” Governor Rudy Perpich called for the zoo to be spun off as a nonprofit business.

Ehmke can empathize: “No one wants to walk a mile to maybe see a deer,” he says. He was hired a decade ago to add some “wow appeal,” as he put it at the time, to the zoo’s exhibits. Laid-back, with a wry sense of humor, he comes across as more intellectual than idealist. And it was clear he had nothing against charismatic mega-vertebrates: As an exhibit designer at the Bronx Zoo, he’d created its signature attraction, the Congo Gorilla Forest, featuring, well, gorillas—lots of them.

Ehmke is now slowly reversing the Minnesota Zoo’s old layout, creating so-called “immersive exhibits” that draw animals closer to visitors by means of food, heated rocks, and other enticements. For “Russia’s Grizzly Coast,” a $24 million fantasia that opened in 2008, he brought in Amur leopards and grizzly bears, luring them so close to the viewing glass that the bears’ massive heads are occasionally pressed against it. Last year, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums declared “Russia’s Grizzly Coast” the best new exhibit in the country, and attendance spiked by 15 percent over 2008 to a record 1.35 million visitors. Attendance has now increased 40 percent in the last five years, and legislators are pleased: Over the last several years, they’ve awarded the zoo some $66 million, including $21 million this year.

But Ehmke can’t afford to stock every new exhibit with bears or equally large equivalents. Nor does he believe it’s always necessary. “It’s not just about having the crowd pleasers,” he says, echoing the zoo’s former insect proponents. Like them, he believes that contemporary zoos should be in the business of conservation as much as entertainment, helping preserve animals in the wild as well as at home. “All great zoos are committed to taking on the bigger conservation issues of the world,” says Ehmke, “and we want to be perceived as a great zoo.” Going a step further, he says, “If you take away the conservation part, I’m not sure there would be a good reason to have zoos.”

Ehmke now has a simple requirement for all new or remodeled exhibits: “We want to link everything we do here at the zoo to some conservation effort in the place where the animals are from.” In 2008, as the zoo’s designers conceived “Faces of the African Forest,” Ehmke hired Tara Harris, a young conservation biologist who, when she’s not monitoring the zoo’s sustainability measures, studies mountain zebras in Namibia. The next year, the zoo hired Jeff Muntifering, a conservation biologist based in Namibia. In his early thirties, Muntifering tracks black rhinoceroses—a species poached to the brink of extinction—from a base so remote that locals call it World’s End. The two hires tripled the zoo’s conservation department and staked the organization in Africa, the world’s most prominent conservation battleground. The stage for displaying African animals was set.

This emphasis on conservation isn’t expected to draw additional visitors to the Africa exhibit, Ehmke says. (As one zoo director has put it, no one goes to zoos “to eat their vitamins.”) But if it’s not a pull, it might just be a push. In his office, Ehmke keeps a paper written by former Bronx Zoo director Bill Conway, revered in zoo circles as the father of modern zoo exhibitions, called “How to Exhibit a Bullfrog: A Bedtime Story for Zoo Men.” (“The gender reference tells you how long ago we’re talking,” Ehmke notes.) In the paper, Conway imagines an amazing exhibit centered around the common bullfrog—or rather, its engaging environment: a periscope shows a small-mouth bass fanning its eggs, cutaway tunnels reveal amphibians. Conway suggests that well-designed displays open the door to exhibits about habitats, rather than any particular species, much less large ones. “The idea was that any animal could be interesting if exhibited and interpreted creatively,” Ehmke says.

Among Ehmke’s favorite zoos is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, in Tucson, which encompasses just 21 acres and displays no animals larger than black bears (the smallest are ants). The evocative settings, approximating the Sonora Desert, steal the show. The Santa Barbara Zoo, in southern California, recently opened a similar exhibit called Rattlesnake Canyon, which uses reptiles and amphibians to represent the habitat of the nearby Los Padres National Forest. “There’s a lot you can do with small things,” says Rich Block, the zoo’s chief executive officer.

If the Minnesota Zoo’s original designers had the right idea about conservation highlighting the importance of humble creatures—and vice versa—they may have been wrong about the presentation. “What’s changed,” says Ehmke, “is that we’ve realized we’re not re-creating nature. We’re not giving the animals a natural existence—they live at the zoo. They’re being managed by people, which in many cases doesn’t mean turning them loose on five acres and calling it a day.” In other words, you don’t put the bullfrog in a swamp. You put it in a nightclub.

Faces of the african Forest” is located on the zoo’s Tropics Trail, a balmy indoor garden the size of one-and-a-half football fields. The space is among the zoo’s signature attractions and a popular spot for weddings (vows are typically exchanged under a thatched hut), although no marriages will be consecrated there this summer. It’s being remodeled with a stronger conservation focus to house animals from five so-called hot spots, habitats with high biodiversity that are also highly threatened.

Ehmke stands inside the Africa exhibit amid artisans shaping concrete into ersatz trees and vines. “Naturalistic,” Ehmke calls the exhibit, not natural. The space is long and tall but not deep, like a diorama. The animals will be up front—the crocodiles lounging in pools, the monkeys in the trees—and Ehmke’s signature tricks will showcase even the least charismatic species in unusual ways. “Crocs are immobile except maybe twice a day,” Ehmke explains, so he’s designed an overhead pool that allows views of the reptiles from below. A zookeeper hidden inside a hollow “tree” can unleash food through a tubelike “branch” into a clearing in the exhibit, drawing the monkeys into the open. Kids can get closer looks by crawling into a log that juts into the exhibit, surreptitiously surveying the action through viewing portholes. “It’s like set design,” Ehmke says.

In this artificial environment, the animals become “ambassadors,” Ehmke says, for their embattled brethren in the real world. As such, they have the potential to deliver a conservation message to an immense audience—about 180 million people annually visit the 221 zoos accredited by the AZA (by contrast, the Sierra Club and World Wildlife Federation each have just over 1 million members). “The Nature Conservancy and groups like that are great,” says Rick Barongi, head of the Houston Zoo and one of the field’s most vocal proponents of conservation. “But zoos attract more people. They’re probably the best billboard advertisement that animals can have.”

Animals also deliver the message in an almost personal way, argues Block of the Santa Barbara Zoo. “People develop a relationship with the animals they love at the zoo,” he says. “So when they are approached by a World Wildlife Federation, or any other conservation group, they are that much more in tune with the message—and more willing to part with the dollars. I’ve never formed a relationship with any conservation group because of Animal Planet.”

Block is quick to add, though, that people are more likely to bond with, say, gorillas than hyrax—no matter how well they’re presented. “Those big charismatic vertebrates,” he muses. “The fact is, having those icons at the forefront raises visibility.” Tigers and pandas are popular. “Whales do well, too,” he adds.

Zoos may have changed immensely over the years—“About the only thing that resembles zoos of the past is that we have animals on exhibit,” says Block—but the public’s perception of them hasn’t changed as much. “The public has a certain expectation to see gorillas,” says AZA executive director Jim Maddy. “The exotic animals.” In later years, even Bill Conway conceded the limits of his bullfrog theory. As Ehmke wanders through the African exhibit, he clarifies that the zoo would love to have more charismatic animals and says it plans to build a penguin exhibit soon. “I would love to have gorillas,” he says. But they need to be in large social groups, they need more stimulus, and the cost of care is high. “We are constantly trying to balance the natural attractiveness of those charismatic mega-vertebrates,” he says, “with what works at our zoo.”

Ehmke notes that initial concepts for what later became “Russia’s Grizzly Coast” did not include grizzly bears. Zoo officials debated the value of displaying a large animal versus the cost, and concluded that in order to make the splash it was looking for, it needed a heavyweight—a species, frankly, that would look good on posters. Otters weren’t enough. Nor were leopards. “Not all animals,” Ehmke says, “are created equal.”

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Projet Escargot/Snail Project in Sakré built and operational!

Please watch our newest video above, for a small update on Club P.A.N.'s snail micro-project in the village of Sakré, Cote d'Ivoire.

All photos by Claudia Borchers and a big thanks to her and Mr Ouattara Dabila for organizing and overseeing the construction and initial set-up of the snail farm!

See our previous entries on the snail farm:
Please support our Giant African Snail Microproject
THANK YOU!!! 947.52€ raised!!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

5000£ Rufford Small Grant for Club P.A.N. 2010-2011!!!

The Rufford Smalls Grant Foundation has awarded club P.A.N. with another 5000£ (GBP) for the 2010-2011 school year! We would like to thank the foundation for their generosity and continued support of Club P.A.N.!

Monday, January 18, 2010

More funding for the 2010-2011 Club P.A.N. year from Cleveland Metroparks Zoo!

We are so very happy to announce that Club P.A.N. has been awarded $2000 (USD) from Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Cleveland Zoological Society conservation grants program for the 2010-11 school year. This is the second year that the Cleveland Zoo is funding Club P.A.N. and we thank them for their continued support and generosity.