KIDS CAN! Education Program in Senegal

The Houston Zoo works hard to take care of the animals you see when you enter our gates as well as our animal’s counterparts in the wild. The Conservation Department at the Houston Zoo facilitates this by communicating with conservation partners in the field, both in Texas and around the globe. We discuss their needs with them and see how the Zoo can help. Sometimes a project needs education assistance, and that’s definitely something we can help with!

The Houston Zoo teamed up with Falémé Chimpanzee Conservation (FCC) and Conservation Fusion (CF) to assist in the development of  a community-based education program in 4 villages in southeastern Senegal. Southeastern Senegal is a very interesting place-it is the home to the endangered West African chimpanzees, who live in the savanna, cool off in pools of water, and take shade in caves!

West African chimps spending some time in caves in Senegal! Camera trap photo courtesy of Faleme Chimpanzee Conservation.

Many times, conservation projects begin with research on a species. The Falémé Chimpanzee Conservation program works to study the West African chimpanzees in southeastern Senegal using camera traps. Although research is important in conservation efforts, it alone will not save a species. FCC began expanding on their chimpanzee research efforts by working collaboratively with local communities and assessing the needs of the villages and the people that reside next to the savanna chimpanzees. These discussions led to the implementation of an education program in several villages near Kédougou in the bottom right hand corner of the map below.

Map of Senegal, courtesy of

Education is important in community-based conservation efforts. It can change attitudes towards wildlife and habitats, provide jobs, instill a sense of pride among a community, empower local people with new knowledge, skills, and confidence and secure opportunities for students to continue their education.

A young boy participating in the KIDS CAN program learns how to observe wildlife, just like researchers do! Photo courtesy of FCC.

The “KIDS CAN-Ka wulo mara” program means “Kids Can-Protect the Forest” in their native language, Malinke. Kids are vital in securing a future for the Senegal savanna habitat where they live, and the animals they share their home with (which includes lions, chimpanzees, leopards, and hyenas). By having fun while learning about wildlife, kids become inspired to conserve what’s around them.

Learning about the importance of chimpanzees in seed dispersal. Photo courtesy of Faleme Chimpanzee Conservation.

We are excited about continuing to assist in the KIDS CAN education program in Senegal, so check back with us for more updates throughout the summer!

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