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Community Outreach Ranger Victor Wotala

A core function of the GRI-Wildlife Discovery Centre will be to raise conservation awareness amongst Zambian children and youth. Our goal is to offer daily educational experiences for local school groups.

Community Outreach Ranger, Victor Wotala, will be responsible for delivering interactive and engaging in-situ conservation lessons and guiding students in their exploration of the facility.

Victor’s role is to educate, empower and engage local communities to conserve nature. He currently delivers environmental awareness in schools, facilitates educational experiences at Lilayi Elephant Nursery, empowers vulnerable women with sustainable livelihoods and raises conservation awareness at local events and via community radio.

What did you want to be when you were little?

Ever since I was a child, my dream has been to be a teacher.

Did you always have a passion for animals?

I had a strong passion for animals from my childhood, such that I used to keep dogs and my first dog his name was Danger. Currently I have two dogs by the name of Chop and Danger, in memory of my first dog.

How and when did you come to join GRI?

Before coming to GRI I used to work at Lilayi Lodge as a Pastry Chef and Kitchen Porter. I had a friend who worked as the Head Elephant Keeper at GRI by then and I shared with him about the strong passion I had for wildlife. He advised me to write an application and lucky enough I was accepted, and I started working for GRI on 8th June 2012.

I was an Elephant Keeper at the Nursery for 8 years, before I became GRI’s Community Outreach Ranger for Lusaka District.

Do you have a favourite orphan elephant?

Suni has been my favourite elephant and she still is though she is late. She has been my favourite elephant because at one time she saved my life. I had worked as an Elephant Keeper for eight years, you know when you are a Keeper you are just the same as the mother, because a Keeper feeds an elephant every three hours 24/7 until the age of four this means you must care for the calf around the clock.

It was a beautiful Monday morning when I was walking with the calves in the reserve and as I was leading the herd along the path Suni was rightly behind me and in front I was on target from a big spitting cobra. I didn’t spot the snake, lucky enough Suni spotted the snake before me, she gently pushed me away from the path and she faced the snake such that she was almost stepping on it with her heavy boot and I was like what’s going on then I saw a snake escaping from Suni and I was so thankful to her such that I gave her the kiss and a big hug. The time she was put to rest we were in tears, and this tells us how bad poaching is.

What does your current role look like?

As a Community Outreach Ranger, I give daily presentations to visitors at Lilayi Elephant Nursery. My role is to welcome guests from different walks of life and explain to them about the works of Game Rangers International. This is where I share with them about the three pillars of our project; Community Outreach, Resource Protection and Wildlife Rescue. I also talk about the profiles of each elephant as of where they were rescued and so on and so forth.

Besides giving deck talks, I also deliver conservation lessons to 25 different schools within Lusaka, and take children for education tours at Lilayi Elephant Nursery so that they can learn about the importance of conserving nature. I also work with women in the local communities. We currently have three women's groups in Lusaka: Shachiwondwe Women’s Group who are vegetable farmers, Kakhutula Women’s Group, who run a bakery and Shamuvula Women’s Group who practice chicken rearing. As a project we believe that a sustainable and long-term conservation can only be achieved if communities living around the affected areas are fully empowered, educated and engaged. It is for this reason that our women’s groups are fully empowered with necessary items such as seeds, farming equipment, baking flour, chicken feed, different survival skills and a lot more for them to expand their businesses so that they can provide food for their children

Can you tell us a bit more about GRI’s Conservation Clubs?

This is a wonderful conservation program which we run in 50 schools in Zambia. We are targeting children in Grades 5-7 and a maximum of 40 students in each of schools. We aim to inspire and motivate children to carry out conservation challenges within their communities. In addition, we also want to show the children that there is a sustainable way of living. It is through these conservation programs that children start to learn and appreciate nature.

What do you enjoy most about running these clubs?

Engaging the children in various activities such as poems, songs, debates and quiz which preach about the importance of conserving nature. Not only teaching the children about nature but seeing them changing their behaviour in the way they perceive nature in a positive manner.

What are your biggest challenges with the educational program?

In most of the state schools, some children find it difficult to read and understand English language. As a teacher you must be very creative reaching at, the extent of simplifying and interpreting from English to local language so that the children are all on the same level of understanding what is being taught.

Why do you think it is important to deliver conservation education?

Education is the key; it is for this reason that when our young generation are educated today, they will help in caring for nature and reduce the rate of poaching now and in future. For instance, some of the children in our schools have testified that their parents at one point had been engaged into poaching activities such as cutting down trees for charcoal, killing wild animals and using of the mosquito nets to catch fish.

What impact do the Conservation Clubs or visits to the Nursery have on the children and how are these experiences different from regular school lessons?

Children tend to see the importance of conserving wildlife especially when they hear the story of how each orphan calf was rescued. Most of the calves are orphans because of man as the main predator this really breaks the heart of the children as they start to see the cruelty of man and avoid in any poaching activities such as deforestation, or buying any ornaments made of ivory tusk.

We don’t just teach theory to our children in classrooms, but we also do practical work whereby they see in real life what they learn in class such as planting trees, picking litters, gardening and engaging the children in various activities such as poems, debates, songs, and dramas which preach about the importance of conservation.

Soon we'll be opening the Wildlife Discovery Centre in Lusaka National Park. What are your thoughts on the plans for the centre as a learning space for children and visitors to LNP?

It will be very exciting experience for children as the centre will be a conducive learning environment that is peaceful and calm as it is in the heart of the park, which is the natural habitat for wildlife, it will be fully packed with the number of learning activities. We are going to have several learning hats where children can research more about the different species of animals, plants, etc

What are you most excited for with regards to your role expanding into the Wildlife Discovery Centre?

The Wildlife Discovery Centre will create more awareness to the local communities as it will attract local tourists to visit Lusaka National Park. It will broaden the knowledge of the children about conservation as they will have a chance to see in real life what they learn in classroom. It will be a very wonderful opportunity hosting different schools and taking the children for a walk where they can identify different species of trees, animals and learn more about nature.

Would you like to get involved?

Sponsor a Day at the GRI - Wildlife Discovery Centre

Provide a meaningful and memorable educational experience for local children, and invest in the long-term preservation of Zambia's natural resources.


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