Quick update on our awesome new guides that are being trained up for the Friends of Shimoni Forest tourist trail. Like I said in previous blogs, they are three young guys from the Safe Shimoni Youth Group who heard about the opportunity to become forest guides and volunteered themselves. Their names are Hassan Ropa, Hamisi Mwalago and Kopa Halafu.
They sat in on our forest training that we give to our volunteers on Monday, and listened to the lectures on primate ID and survey methodology, mammals of Shimoni forest and bird ID and survey methodology. Those were the only lectures that were relevant to them at this time, but they seemed really interested and keen.
What we are now doing, is rushing to get some tailor-made lectures together specifically for them, that will focus on species that they are most likely to see, and will focus on the morphological and ecological aspects of those species.
The primate lecture they will get will include the Angolan black and white colobus, sykes monkey, yellow baboon, vervet monkey and the small-eared galago (bushbaby). It will go into a lot of detail about social structure, behaviour and ecology; stuff they can pass on to tourists!
The next lecture will be mammals, and will include:
- Zanj elephant shrew
- Giant pouched rat
- Red-bellied coastal squirrel
- Zanj sun squirrel
- Harvey’s duiker
- Common genet
- Blotched genet
- Banded mongoose
- White-tailed mongoose
The bird lecture will include the species that through experience, we know they are most likely to see with the tourists. It will also include species that are less likely to be seen, but are of conservational importance. Species to be included are:
- Various snake eagles
- African fish eagle
- Palm nut vulture
- Black kite
- Three hornbill species
- Bee-eater species
- Common bulbul
- Hoo poe’s
- African green pigeon
- Coucal species
- Woodpecker species
- Various kingfishers
- Rollers (broad-billed, lilac-breasted)
- Weavers (lots!)
Learning the bird species is going to be a challenge, as there are many of them. But we have found that practise, day in and day out, tends to do the trick! They are already picking up the more common species, and they’ve only been out in the forest for two days!
We are then going to have a miscellaneous section that will include things like common spiders, lizards, frogs, insects, snakes and butterflies.
We will then have a section about east African Coastal forests, and Shimoni forest specifically. It will include things like biogeographical history, ecology, biological value, socio-economic value and the threats. This will be used as essential general knowledge for the guides, as well as the foundations of an introductory talk they will give to the groups before going into the forest.
The final section will be focussed on ‘being a guide’, and will include how to act and behave around people from different cultures, the differing manners and ideas of politeness that vary in countries around the world. We will hopefully (cue internet search…!) be able to teach them basic greetings in a handful of the main languages they are likely to encounter. We are going to coach them on public speaking, delivering information, and hopefully put them through an Emergency First Responder first aid course.
At the end of each lecture, they will get the material to take home with them. They will then have to complete some assignments on each section. The purpose of these will to get them thinking about the animals in more depth, really studying the notes, as well as using the resources GVI can offer them (books, scientific papers, internet) to do some independent research on the animals and topics they will cover. Once all units and assignments are completed, and they feel comfortable with the in-field experience, they will sit a final exam. If they pass, they will receive a certificate and will be the first ever official Friends of Shimoni Forest tourist trail guides!
So far they have demonstrated enthusiasm, plenty of existing knowledge and a desire to get stuck in and learn. Keep your fingers crossed for them, and we’ll keep you updated!