Lion Fun Days
Every November we organize a two-day community conservation fair known as “Lion Fun Days” for the children of Mbamba village. We partner with the Houston Zoo, which holds Lion Fun Days of their own during the same period -- but thousands of miles across the world! The children at the Velasquez Elementary School in Houston collect change for lion conservation to support our efforts and every year deserve a special thank you.
The aim of these events is to make conservation fun and to raise awareness about the plight of lions in Niassa. During the Lion Fun Days, we share strange and new fun facts about lions and other animals with the children -- facts to make them laugh, make them think, amaze them, or simply let them identify with the animal a bit more.
Did you know that lions may sleep for 18 hours a day? Or that each leopard has a different coat pattern so you can identify them by their spots? Did you know that hippos can’t swim but instead walk on the bottom of the river? And did you know that a bat can eat more the 1,000 mosquitoes in a day and still have time to pollinate our mango and cashew trees?
We are working to change the perception that conservation is only about saying “No!” to local lifestyles and practices. Instead, we use these festivals to spread positive messages about safe behaviours, safe shelters, and the intrinsic value of all animals. The whole village takes part in these events, including more than 300 children, their teachers, and teachers from other villages. We hope to expand this initiative to include school groups from other villages as well.
Our team (locally named “Nkuli”, which means honey badger), together with Paula Ferro and the dedicated Mbamba teachers, bring their extraordinary energy to organizing races and other competitive games with conservation themes – such as an animal relay, an ecological tug of war, or playing being adversaries, such as lions and bush pigs. We make masks, rosettes, kites, and flags. The children love to paint and only get to do so once a year. All the children who take part in activities receive prizes, including simple items for their families (salt, spoons, pens and pencils, notebooks) and we also give a gift to the participating schools. Theatre is a great way to spread conservation messages and the school children put on conservation plays for their community about sleeping in safe shelters, the effects of too many fires, and other pertinent issues.
Lion Fun Days are energy-intensive and expensive to put on but very worth it and a great way to tell people about the plight of the lion. If you would like to partner with us, or if your school wants to inquire about inaugurating Lion Fun days in your own community, please let us know.