Today is Earth Day which we’ve been celebrating since 1970. Sometimes it seems like a futile gesture to dedicate one single day to the Earth and then just carry on as usual the rest of the year. But, I suppose it’s like Mother’s Day. Mom gets a card or some flowers once a year and the rest of the year she feeds you, clothes you, picks up your socks, puts a roof over your head and comforts you when you feel down. But that one day you think of Mom sort of does make an impact and sticks with you throughout the year. Maybe you’re just a bit more appreciative and thoughtful of her because of that one day of recognition.
Even though sometimes it seems hopeless, so many more people today, whether due to Earth Day or not, are aware and active in the environmental movement. We’d like to highlight one extraordinary young activist who is setting out on an ambitious and risky mission in Africa, where, with the help of dedicated locals, veterinarians, researchers and experienced jungle guides and trackers, she will work to save a very special and highly threatened branch of our family tree, the great ape. Horizon is proud to have helped launch this unique environmental mission through designing and building her website.
Project for Wildlife and Apes Conservation, or P-WAC, is a French Association or non-profit, based in Lyon. It was established and is run by Amandine Renaud, a primatologist and doctoral candidate trained in France and England. Amandine’s previous work as a graduate student in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) affected her deeply. She got to know the incredibly complex and sensitive chimpanzee in its home environment, an animal so eerily familiar in demeanor, yet so foreign to the human experience. And she saw the horrific animal slaughter going on in the region, due to poaching and illegal trade of chimpanzees, gorillas and other primates. The pace of habitat destruction and the killing of ape populations are driving these animals rapidly toward extinction. Amandine wants to assure a place of safety and a future for the remaining populations of great apes in the DRC and she is moving quickly.
P-WAC’s mission is to establish a sanctuary and rehabilitation facility where distressed and rescued animals can be welcomed, treated and rehabilitated for life in the wild. Among the dedicated staff will be veterinarians and researchers who will advance knowledge and help to find ways to preserve the local ecosystems and fortify the remaining populations of great apes well into the future. But the real difference that Amandine hopes to make, the difference that will assure a long-term place for this project in the local economy, is to train and employ local women at the rehabilitation center as symbols and messengers of an important change in ways of thinking about our environment and our civilization that must take place if we are to preserve them.
The local DRC women who work with Amandine will put to use practical skills of caring for and nurturing the animals at the center. They will support visitor and volunteer operations as well as help run the center itself. The center will afford these women financial security and sustenance for their families and communities. Some will learn leadership skills and instill among their peers, and their community of men as well, the spirit and hope of the center, to preserve a unique and precious ecosystem in the jungles of the DRC and its great ape inhabitants with whom we humans have uniquely close ties.
Just like Mother’s Day, and Earth Day, P-WAC’s mission is bigger than just one event, one center. It is to change attitudes, change outlooks and change ways of living so that sustainability is reached, a species is saved and humans move one step farther along the path toward living in harmony with our environment.
We support P-WAC and its mission. If you want to know more about P-WAC’s mission, please visit their website.