Miroslav Bobek – Prague Zoo, Czech Republic
The idea behind the Wandering Bus project is simple: a bus brings school children from the vicinity of the Dja Biosphere Reserve in Cameroon to the rescue stations in Limbe or Mefou, where they encounter gorillas, undergo educational programmes and gain an indelible experience during the several days long journey.
Cooperation with the guards of the Dja Biosphere Reserve has been essential for the project. For the purpose of the project, Prague Zoo received (for free use) part of the base in Somalomo at the edge of Dja, which provides accommodation and office space. For several years we have provided equipment to the guards and now they play an important role in the Wandering Bus project.
The project is not focused only on encountering gorillas and other animals at the rescue stations. Experienced educators in both centres use entertaining ways to provide school children from Dja with important and interesting information, and so they reshape their attitudes towards nature, which is our biggest hope for the future. The journeys of the Wandering Bus are followed by the work of the Ecoclub Friends of Dja, founded by Prague Zoo, which continues to work with children while strengthening the link between the reserve guards and local people and developing a sustainable relationship of children and their families with nature.
The Wandering Bus should run for at least four years. So far more than 140 children have participated in the journey, mostly to Mefou. We are now preparing additional education activities that will follow the project. We have also opened the base in Somalomo to scientists. The first scientific project there focused on ethno-zoological research. Its results will be important to us for our practical conservation work.