The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Wonderfully Wild. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Wonderfully Wild.


Building Community Conservation Success in East Africa

Dr. James Danoff-Burg May 7, 2019

Jambo wanawake na wanaume - or, hello ladies and gents in Swahili!


Mike Chedester (Director of Education at The Living Desert) and I have arrived in Nairobi, Kenya safely and smoothly last night, despite landing and driving through a torrential downpour. David, our driver was much calmer and collected than I would have been on the drive, given that there for much of it I wasn’t certain where the road was!


Nonetheless, we have arrived at the Nairobi headquarters of our long-time Kenyan conservation partner Action for Cheetahs in Kenya. The amazing view from the porch on which I am writing this post is best described as a Vermont farm house relocated to Hawaii. There are troops of Colobus monkeys that run through the treetops periodically, although we have yet to see them.


After the downpour that greeted our arrival, we slept with the sleep that comes gratefully after a day and a half on planes. Yesterday, we woke, did the normal work and email chores, then went shopping for essentials for the workshop that we’ll be leading north of here in Nanyuki.


Our workshop, entitled Building Community Conservation Success, is designed to help develop the social science capabilities of our collaborators here in Kenya, and in two weeks, in Tanzania. Conservation as a field has come more and more to recognize that to make conservation successful, the well-being, support, and involvement of people living nearby must factor prominently in the process. With these workshops and the many more that we hope will follow, we at The Living Desert will be able to help change conservation in Africa.


During these two workshops, we’ll host around 45 conservationists from 12 different organizations in these two amazing countries. I’ve hosted these kinds of workshops for many years at zoos and aquariums across the US, have taught many university classes from which I am drawing these materials, and of course, during my Fulbright in India last year when this was the entirety of what I did for 6 weeks. I am nervous, and excited, and scared, and confident. 


Please send along good wishes for success!




p.s. we also went to the first National Park in Kenya – Nairobi National Park today – and saw some pretty nifty animals while on a brief safari there, entirely within the city limits of Nairobi. I’ve enclosed a few photos of the animals here, conserving all of which are the focus of these 12 organizations!

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