The Kasiisi Project is thrilled to welcome Tammie Bettinger, Ph.D. to the Kasiisi Project Board of Directors. Tammie brings more than 30 years of experience in the conservation and animal fields. Tammie retired in 2017 as the Animal Operations Director at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. While there, she chaired the Disney Conservation Fund’s Africa Committee for more than a decade. Tammie is an expert on primates and great apes, and has held leadership roles in the International Primatological Society, AZA's Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan, and the sanctuary sector. She was a former board member for Chimp Haven and the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance and helped found the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Center for orphaned Grauer's gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Tammie has worked extensively in Uganda on conservation education programs, leading training for educators at the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, chimpanzee trekking guides at Pabidi, and community educators at Bushingiro (Pabidi and Bushingiro are in Budongo Forest). Through her work with GRACE, she has also collaborated with Kasiisi Project on education programs with primary schools. Tammie is especially passionate about working with local communities and is excited to join the Kasiisi Project team. She said, "The only way to conserve chimpanzees is to empower people living closest to them. I have been following Kasiisi Project's work for more than 20 years and am so impressed with the impact they've made at Kibale. I look forward to contributing in any way I can."
We are honored to have Tammie in this leadership role and look forward to working with her.
Collecting Oral Histories
It is with great excitement and huge gratitude to the National Geographic Society that we announce that Patrick Tusiime, Field Director of our partner NGO, the Kibale Forest Schools Program, has been awarded a grant for his project “Oral History as a Conservation Education Tool”. This project, takes a unique approach to understanding the role of indigenous knowledge and belief systems in developing effective conservation strategies around Kibale National Park, Uganda.
Through our project, an independently organized program, using StoryCorps DIY model, we will recruit and train children to record personal histories of older members of their villages, highlighting experiences existing alongside wild animals, how the resources of the park were traditionally used, and how things changed when it became a National Park. We will explore the role of tradition and myth, and indigenous knowledge, and explore customary land use and long-established conservation strategies, critically important for successful conservation.
We send big thank you’s to our friends at StoryCorps for their guidance helping Pat write the grant and for their advice going forward.
A new era at the Kasiisi Project
We have exciting news. As of March 15th 2023, I am stepping down as Executive Director, handing over the reins to Sonya Kahlenberg PhD., who will act as Interim Executive Director for at least the next 12 months. Sonya could not be more perfect for this role. She knows Kibale well. She did her doctoral research in Kibale National Park with chimpanzees and co-directed the Kibale Snare Removal Project with our Ugandan project director, Dr. Emily Otali, for two years. She was an early partner with the Kasiisi Project, serving as volunteer, advisor, co-director and for many years board member. She is an avid conservationist with wide-ranging experience including two decades in the nonprofit sector, international field research, collegiate-level teaching, and leading impactful projects around the globe. Her conservation work has centered on iconic flagship species, such as great apes, but also extends to landscape-level and community-centered approaches. She was the first Executive Director for the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) Center, an organization focused on Critically Endangered Grauer’s gorillas in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. She helped build GRACE into an award-winning organization. Also, Sonya recently served as the Senior Director of Strategy and Operations for Legado, a nonprofit that works in Africa and Latin America to support holistic and community-centered approaches in conservation, and as Senior Advisor to the Macaw Recovery Network, which protects and recovers macaw populations in Costa Rica. She says she is excited to return to Uganda to help guide the Kasiisi Project towards an exciting future, but not as excited as we are to have her. I will stay on the Board to provide continuity, and we hope that you will continue to have the same confidence in the project and our work that you did with me, as we move, under Sonya’s expert guidance, into our next phase.
Executive Director: The Kasiisi Project
Healthy Children: Healthy Apes
For the past 3 years we have been collecting clinical samples to elucidate how viruses that cause pediatric respiratory infections move from children to the wild chimpanzees of the Kyanyawara community in Kibale National Park, Uganda, potentially causing fatal sickness.
In January DMV/PhD student Taylor Weary and Kasiisi Project Health Staff shared their initial results with the people who generously allowed us to continue to collect nasal swabs from themselves and their children throughout the pandemic. Presentations were also made to local government health officials and the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
In 2022, thanks to funding from the Arcus Foundation, we expanded the project to collect samples from 3 other great ape sites, two chimpanzee and one mountain Gorilla, and changed the name of the project from Healthy Children: Healthy Chimps to Healthy Children: Healthy Apes.
Happy New Year from Uganda!
Just before they went on Christmas leave the staff of the Kasiisi Project in Uganda celebrated the end of a challenging but none-the-less successful year with balloons, roast goat, and cake. Post-Covid burgeoning class size, high drop out rates and the loss of two years of class time topped by an outbreak of Ebola impacted everyone, but despite these difficulties students and teachers worked hard to catch up!
We very much look forward to sharing a a terrific 2023 with you!
2022 has been a year of getting back on our feet. We are aware that we have not been the best communicators, but when a donor said they weren’t sure whether we were still in existence, we realized what a really bad job we have been doing! We have been working hard to kickstart many of our programs but that is no excuse for not keeping all of you who support them informed. We have now hired a “Media Mogul” to ensure that we will be posting regular BLOGS in 2023 and keeping you updated!
In Uganda, schools have slowly recovered from COVID shutdowns, although about 30% of children did not return after lockdown; lost to early marriage, the informal economy, and supporting their families. Just as schools climbed out of the COVID trench, however, Ebola struck in September and schools closed again. Luckily it seems that they have it under control and we cross our fingers for a successful 2023, uninterrupted by crises.
The war in Ukraine has driven prices for building materials sky high in Uganda and our costs for salaries and transport, always our biggest expense, have risen 10%. All this just at a time when two years of COVID neglect have left all schools with major infrastructure issues. We have been stretching every dollar to repair classrooms, build desks for a burgeoning school population and construct desperately needed latrines.
Our Annual Report will come out in January with lots of information on everything we have achieved this year in partnership with our communities to support schools, community health and the environment. Looking back on everything that we have done and what this past year has brought to us, we are overwhelmed with gratitude and also proud of what we have been able to accomplish, especially of the work of our Ugandan NGO - students, parents, community and research partners, and all of our many supporters! So, before 2023 is upon us, we want to acknowledge each of our community members and to share the story of our year - be on the look-out for our upcoming posts!
And of course, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want any information.
We hope that you have a wonderful holiday season and a happy and healthy 2023!
The Latest Buzz about the Bee Project
We were honored and thrilled recently when the Disney Conservation Fund awarded our Bee Project with support for 2023 and 2024!!
Since 2020, we have been working with Citizen Scientist farmer-beekeepers who live along the border of Kibale National Park and who maintain apiaries that, in conjunction with trenches, intend to serve as natural barriers against elephant crop-raiding.
We gather data about honey bee health in order to try to understand whether these “bee fences” can be effective over the long term at maintaining good neighborly relations between the elephants (who are terrified of bees!) and the communities of subsistence farmers just outside of KNP. Thanks to Disney, we will continue gathering data about the bees while also expanding the project to collect survey data about elephant incursions. Our Bee Project Team, will begin tracking all incidents of elephant crop-raiding and interviewing affected farmers, both in areas protected by bee fences and in areas without them. With this information, we hope to gain more insight into just how successful are our fierce winged guards at keeping the peace!
We also have been working with Citizen Science beekeepers in a region more arid than the rainforest conditions of Kibale National Park, adjacent to Queen Elizabeth National Park. The QENP beekeepers are collecting the same kinds of information about bee health as the KNP beekeepers - ability to maintain healthy temperature and humidity using BroodMinder™ devices, data from physical hive checks (e.g., number of combs where the queen bee has laid brood eggs, number of combs where the bees have gathered and stored pollen, number of combs filled with honey, presence or absence of pests like ants or beetles). Our hope is that by collecting data from a more arid region, we can isolate the effects that rainfall may have on bee health - especially as rainfall seems to be increasing around KNP as a result of climate change.
We are so grateful to the Akron Zoo for supporting this expansion of our Bee Project into QENP and to the other amazing organizations who also support our Bee Project, the National Geographic Society, the Oklahoma City Zoo, and IDEA WILD!
The importance of The Kasiisi Project One Health initiative, Healthy Children: Healthy Chimps, has been recognized by the choice of Taylor Weary as the inaugural recipient of the Gregory D Bossart Memorial One Health Scholarship. Taylor, a PhD, DMV student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, received the scholarship for research focused on the interconnection between animals, people, plants, and their shared environment. in partnership with Ugandan colleagues this ground breaking research tracks transmission of potentially lethal respiratory viruses from children to chimpanzees in Kibale National Park, Uganda, Taylor is responsible for laboratory analyses of clinical specimens collected from people and chimpanzees around the park.
Funded by the Arcus Foundation and the National Geographic Society, Healthy Children: Healthy Chimps is a collaborative project combining the skills and resources of the Kasiisi Project, The Kibale EcoHealth Project and the Kibale Chimpanzee Project aimed at clarifying transmission pathways of viruses of human origin that infect and kill great apes. In 2022 the project will be extended to two other chimpanzee and one mountain gorilla research site in Uganda
Bees on guard - tiny insects protect african elephants
Are you fascinated by bees? Do you love elephants? The Kasiisi Project Citizen Science project "Bees on Guard" contributes to the conservation of both these species around Kibale National Park, Uganda in partnership with local beekeeping co-operatives, the Busiriba Beekeeping and Conservation Association and Conservation to Coexist.
Elephants are magnificent and fascinating, but also enormously destructive, bringing them into frequent conflict with their human neighbors. When faced with the destruction of an entire maize crop, subsistence farmers, struggling to make ends meet, are not supporters of elephant conservation.
This is where bees come in. African honey bees, tiny as they are, have ferocious stings and elephants avoid them. When farmers string beehives along wires, forming "Bee Fences" to defend their fields, elephants look elsewhere for food. But in order to deter elephants bee colonies need to be strong and healthy, a challenge during the wet season.
Active apiaries require regular maintenance and dealing with bees fierce enough to drive off elephants requires the right equipment, with costs beyond the reach of these beekeepers. This is where you can help. You will be in great company. National Geographic, Akron Zoo and Oklahoma City Zoo have all assisted us in getting this program off the ground, but now we need to reach more farmers.
We are running a GoFundMe campaign to raise the money needed to train and equip 15 more beekeeper associations so that their apiaries support healthy bee colonies, produce honey to supplement family incomes, and are active enough to save the lives of elephants.
If you wish to make your donation a gift we can help there too. Just e-mail us at email@example.com and we can send your recipient a card.
By the time that schools open again in January 2022, Ugandan children will have missed almost 2 years of class time due to the Covid pandemic. Students from more affluent families have had access to online learning, something not an option for impoverished rural families. Loss of education is detrimental for all children but those from marginalized societies like ours suffer most, with girls being the most impacted. Falling family incomes have forced children into the informal job market in large numbers, setting back attempts to end child labor by 20 years. Most will never return to school, and early marriage and teen pregnancy rates have ballooned. More than a third (35%) of our children polled said they were not interested in learning or had dropped out of school permanently.
Aware of this crisis and determined to to help keep families motivated about the benefits of education, as well as reducing students anxiety about returning to school, the Kasiisi Project and its Ugandan partner, The Kibale Forest Schools' Program, have undertaken to bring school work to children in their villages.
Thanks to a monumental effort by our staff, for 4 months, during heavy rains, 2,500 children in Grades 3-5 have received educational packs of pencils, crayons and paper and biweekly packets of school work produced by the Ugandan Government. Every month we print, collate, and bind 110,000 work sheets and distribute them using motorbike taxis, community leaders and village health teams to 2,500 children in 130 villages.
Every 2 weeks, work is collected, marked and returned to the students. Weekly story time on the local radio makes literature and comprehension available to another 20,000 children, and environmental workbooks, art and storytelling competitions and family history projects keep our conservation and health goals in everyone's minds. We hope that by January there will be no need for such an enormous undertaking but we will still be there to provide the support that the schools need as they begin the huge job of getting their students back on track.
We join with Ugandan parents, teachers and local government to express our enormous gratitude to the generous donors who made this critical but very expensive initiative possible.
If you are interested in supporting the initiative or any of our other programs you can do so through the donate page.
© THE KASIISI PROJECT. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
The Kasiisi Project is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Contributions to the Kasiisi Project are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law. The Kasiisi Project's tax identification number is 54-2195079.