WCS Educator Wins Award for Raising Awareness of World’s Rarest Great Ape

NEW YORK  (June 15, 2010)—The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Joseph Mulema is the winner of the Charles Southwick Conservation Education Commitment Award for his work with the government and local communities in Cameroon to protect the world’s rarest ape, the Cross-River gorilla. Presented by the International Primatological Society, the award was established to recognize individuals living in primate habitat countries who have made significant contributions to conservation education.

Mulema is the conservation education coordinator for the WCS Takamanda-Mone Landscape Project (TMLP), which works with the government of Cameroon and local communities to establish and manage protected areas for conservation of some of the most biodiverse highland forests in the world. These habitats are home to many endangered species, including the most endangered sub-species of chimpanzee,  a rare monkey known as Pruess’s guenon, and the Cross River gorilla.

Mulema previously worked as education coordinator at the Limbe Wildlife Center, which cares for orphaned primates whose parents were victims of the bushmeat trade.  His dynamic personality and skill in working with children earned him a place with WCS in 2006 to head a newly created conservation education unit focused on working with schools and communities around protected areas in southwestern Cameroon.

Since then, Mulema has developed education programs that have played an important role in promoting the need to conserve the critically endangered Cross River gorilla. There are fewer than 300 Cross River gorillas in existence and they are found only in Cameroon and Nigeria.            

Mulema began his education project by evaluating the levels of awareness and attitudes towards conservation. He then tailored focused messages in the form of games, films, radio broadcasts, school conservation handbooks, and other methods on a site-by site basis. Some of the materials that Mulema has produced have been adopted by other conservation projects as far away as Germany.

“Joseph is an inspiration,” said Dr. James Deutsch, director for WCS’s Africa Program. “His work with dozens of remote, forest-dependent communities and 34 schools has resulted in widespread community support for protected areas such as Takamanda National Park and the Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary.”


Both Takamanda National Park and the Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary were created in 2008 by the Wildlife Conservation Society in collaboration with the government of Cameroon. Takamanda is a trans-boundary protected area and Joseph also works closely with WCS staff based in Cross River National Park on the Nigerian side of the border. Mulema’s work has therefore not only contributed towards the creation of Takamanda, but also in fostering conservation collaboration between countries.

The German Development Bank (KfW), Great Apes Film Initiative (GAFI), Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, Berggorilla, Regenwald Direkthilfe and International Conservation and Education Fund (INCEF) deserve particular thanks for their support for Joe’s work.

Contact:             
Stephen Sautner: (1-718-220-3682; ssautner@wcs.org)
John Delaney: (1-718-220-3275; jdelaney@wcs.org)
Sophie Bass: (1-718-220-6853; sbass@wcs.org)


The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide.  We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.


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