How pedal-powered films are helping save Uganda’s last gorillas

It’s only relatively recently that conservationists have come to appreciate that efforts to protect mountain gorillas in the wild need to engage and involve the communities surrounding the habitat where this critically-endangered species lives.

One notable example of this being put into practice is taking place in Uganda, where the screening of wildlife and great ape documentaries are helping to raise awareness of the importance of safeguarding gorillas and the forests they live in.

To make this project come to life, The Gorilla Organization partnered with the Great Apes Film Initiative (GAFI) back in 2006. Then, in November 2010 the film screenings were given a fun and innovative twist thanks to the development of a pedal-powered cinema: an adapted bicycle that, when pedalled, produces enough power to screen films.

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Success in DRC!

The pedal powered cinema will be an absolute boon to Virunga National Park, DR Congo. A cinema kit was delivered to Rumangabo, Park HQ, in March 2012.

Apart from being home to around a third of the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas, Virunga is probably the biologically diverse National Park in Africa and is a ‘World Heritage Site, in Danger’. The rangers of Virunga work tirelessly to protect the wildlife of Virunga and are committed to finding means to raise awareness and understanding amongst the youngsters that live in and around the Park.

The communities living around Virunga have no electricity and the children, nor their extended families, will have ever seen a film. The pedal powered cinema is predicted to screen conservation films to over 75,000 children in over 100 of these remote schools during it’s first year alone. The rangers aim to follow up these screenings with talks and guided educational sessions throughout Virunga NP, Africa’s oldest National Park. The number of extended family members who crowd around to take a look at the films through windows and doors would numbers in the 100′s of thousands over time.

Virunga will be making their own specific films focusing on the issues affecting the future of the Park such as poaching and the illegal charcoal trade. The pedal powered cinema provides the perfect means to take positive conservation messages out to remote and isolated communities. It’s also fun and interactive, with children hopping on and off the bike that powers the screenings.

From having no effective means to communicate with the thousands of children and communities of Virunga, the rangers now have a simple, fun and very practical means of encouraging a much increased awareness and understanding of Virunga. That can only lead to much better informed and caring communities who understand that protecting the Parks habitats and wildlife will bring benefits to them both now aqnd long into the future.

After the first film screening at Rumangabo school (with 721 children) the pedal powered cinema was described by Park staff as ‘an awesome piece of kit’. A better endorsement would be hard to find……

Linda Nunn

Chair, Gearing Up 4 Gorillas


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Pedal Power is going to DR Congo!

Gearing Up 4 Gorillas have recently invested in a new Pedal Powered Cinema. This cinema will be used mainly in Virunga National Park (VNP).

Emmanuel de Merode, Chief Warden, is developing an environmental education project to be delivered throughout VNP along with Head of Communications, Francesco de Lisi.

The pedal powered cinema will be an integral part of delivering that programme through showing films / videos in schools and local communities. A generous sponsor, Animal Friends Insurance, has offered to purchase the cinema for Gearing Up 4 Gorillas (G4G) to deliver to Virunga. Elaine Fairfax, Managing Director, has very kindly made donations towards the work of G4G on previous occasions.

During the first half of 2011, there have been several ranger deaths from gun attacks by militia groups in the Park. Emmanuel will focus on promoting Virungas conservation messages to local communities and schools, together with the benefits conservation can bring to them, to counteract those elements who seek to destroy the Park for their own ends.

Emmanuel estimates using the cinema in at least 3 schools per week; reaching around 1,500 children a month and over 75,000 per annum. Screenings within local villages will considerably increase the number of people to benefit from the cinema. G4G are currently working on raising £6,000 to fund two environmental education staff for Virunga for a year, to enable this work to be initiated as soon as possible, after the cinema is delivered. Two events in Dorset, (a music event in September and an auction in October) will hopefully give a good boost to the fundraising effort. After showcasing the cinema at the events and through the media, it is planned to deliver the cinema to VNP some time in November. Madelaind Westwood of GAFI and G4G may well also be filming the cinemas arrival and use in Virunga, as interest in the project has been shown by national media.

Linda Nunn
Chair, G4G

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Uganda Pedal Power 2010

Throughout most of November 2010, Madelaine Westwood, GAFI’s Director, led the start of the first conservation education roadshow to use the innovative Pedal Power Cinema.

With colleagues from The Gorilla Organisation, Madelaine travelled to remote areas of Southern Uganda, close to one of the remaining habitats of the mountain gorilla. In this first stage, the team reached nearly 14,000 people – showing them films about the lives of gorillas. The awareness raised is a vital step in connecting the local human population with the issues related to the conservation of these apes.

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Pedal-Powered Cinema

GAFI’s Innovative Pedal-Powered Cinema roadshows are making a huge difference to the number of people who have access to our powerful films.

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Chimps Outwit Hunters

Wild chimps outwit human hunters
Article courtesy of the BBC
By Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News
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Wild chimpanzees are learning how to outwit human hunters.

Across Africa, people often lay snare traps to catch bushmeat, killing or injuring chimps and other wildlife.

But a few chimps living in the rainforests of Guinea have learnt to recognise these snare traps laid by human hunters, researchers have found.

More astonishing, the chimps actively seek out and intentionally deactivate the traps, setting them off without being harmed.

The discovery was serendipitously made by primatologists Mr Gaku Ohashi and Professor Tetsuro Matsuzawa who were following chimps living in Bossou, Guinea to study the apes’ social behaviour.
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Scholarship for Madelaine

Madelaine Awarded Wingate Scholarship

Prestigious Award Will Fund Research into Roadshow Effectiveness

GAFI's Director, Madelaine Westwood

GAFI's Director, Madelaine Westwood

GAFI is delighted to announce that Madelaine Westwood, GAFI’s director, has been awarded a scholarship from the Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation.

These scholarships are awarded anually to “outstanding individuals of great potential or proven excellence who need financial support to undertake creative or original work of intellectual, scientific, artistic, social or environmental value and to musicians for advanced training.”

The scholarship money will enable Madelaine to undertake research that will refine the effectiveness of using film for conservation education, not just for GAFI’s projects, but for NGO’s working throughout the world.
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Gorilla Pedal Boost

Gorilla Project Pedals Forward

Unlocking the secrets of gorillas to local communities

Unlocking the secrets of gorillas to local communities

GAFI’s work to bring awareness of mountain gorillas to human populations in Uganda has received a huge boost. The pedal-powered roadshow project has received full funding with 10,000 awarded from the Van Tienhoven Foundation for International Nature Protection with a further 10,000 donated by a donor in the USA.

Since 2006, the Gorilla Organization (GO) has taken GAFI films to 176 schools in two districts of Uganda; Kabale and Kisoro. These districts are bordered by the last two habitats of the Critically Endangered mountain gorilla; the Virunga Volcanoes and the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
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Bristol Festival of Nature

12th/13th June 2010

At this year’s Bristol Festival of Nature, GAFI and the Ape Alliance seized a great opportunity to raise awareness of ape conservation and the profile our work.

Sharing a stand, we were very busy running an ape colouring/drawing competition for children, whilst volunteers, dressed as gorillas and orangutans, rode electric scooters loaned for the event from our sponsor  We were also able to raise funds through bucket collections for the GAFI Ugandan Pedal Power Cinema Project.

Everyone at the festival and many more in South West England would have struggled to miss us as we were interviewed live on the Big Screen in Millenium Square at the festival and featured on BBC Points West.  Many thanks to everyone who helped out with the festival.

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