Day 15 – The Beginning
Last night we slept in the, more comfortable then camping, dormitory of the Mweka College of Wildlife Management. Despite being tired from the late night preparing for the workshop it was difficult to sleep in anticipation for the following days.
We awoke a few hours early for the first day of the workshop today, partially due to nervousness but mainly because we wanted to enjoy a hot indoor shower. Note that the showers were amazing and incredibly refreshing. After the showers and dressing in our remaining clean clothes we moved the supplies and equipment he, held in rooms overnight, to the laboratory we would be working in. At that point we not frantically but very quickly removed all of the packed equipment and organized it along the bench tops. Despite preparing the laboratory we began the workshop in the conference room, where the projector was. Slightly behind schedule we began the introductions of the participants and ourselves so that we could all understand the backgrounds of those involved. Following the introductions our initial presentation began, which would give the participants a better understanding of the DNA sequencing procedure and what would be occurring throughout the workshop over the next few days. Following the initial presentation the participants regrouped into the laboratory for a more in depth look at the procedure, basically a sped up version Dr. Vavra’s biotechnology class. Through this mini class the participants reviewed DNA and everything associated with DNA.
With the DNA information fresh in their minds the participants were then split into three groups so that we could do a simple rotation system to complete the tasks of the day:
- Quick 5-min interview with Megan
- Pipette training with Bryndan and Brittney
- Free discussion with Dr. Vavra
For the pipette training with Bryndan and Brittney, they focused on four separate areas. Before the activities, an overall introduction was given on how to hold, use, and set a pipette. The first activity included learning how to measure in microliters and knowing what pipettes to use according to the amount needed. The second activity was learning how to use a pipette to mix a solution in a tube without creating bubbles, since this can be devastating to the sample. Finally was an activity focusing on accuracy where each of the participants used food coloring mixed with water to create beads of water on paper. They were asked to write or draw something as long as everything is equally spaced and sized. This was the most liked activity of the three since they were able to be creative and work together. By the end of the session every group was pretty comfortable with how to use a pipette. Some still wished they could have more practice time, but overall their knowledge of how to use a pipette was very good by the end of the day and a great start to the workshop.
The discussion group with Dr. Vavra covered a range of issues related to bushmeat in East Africa. Much of the talk focused on how to implement a wildlife forensics lab in Tanzania with the TANAPA representatives. It seemed appropriate to coordinate the three main entities controlling wildlife populations, national parks, game reserves, and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Currently, national parks have game officers who attempt to analyze bushmeat samples and report to magistrates. Once again we heard that meat stripped of horns, hooves and fur would be tossed out of court. Ideally, it seems that a central forensics lab would work best for these different groups. It also seemed possible to gather data on the number of cases that come in monthly or annually from the different parks. Issues in Kenya and Sudan seemed much more difficult. Many times police officers sieze bushmeat in Nairobi but they are not trained to present cases effectively before the magistrates. Thus, they walk free. Continued conflict in Sudan has placed wildlife conservation as a very low priority. These news was quite depressing. It was hopeful that workshop members were so passionate about doing whatever they could to preserve wildlife. Participants were selected to report on specific topics for the final course document. There was also discussion on costs of such a lab for each region. Additionally, groups talked about the cost of wildlife alive and the savings of removing convicted poachers from the bush. Participants also had questions covering the morning talk on genetics. So far the workshop has been very successful.
Lastly, the final rotation consisted of short personal interviews to discover the workshop participant’s work and interest in wildlife management. We also wanted to assess the group’s feelings towards the Bushmeat Identification Workshop. Each individual had a unique story about their interest in wildlife management, but a uniform theme across the workshop participants was a need for species identification, specifically in court situations. The park wardens discussed their difficulties in identifying wild meat from domestic meat when they would come across samples confiscated from poachers or in the marketplace. The teachers at Mweka discussed trends in wildlife populations over the next few generations and each told a story of overpopulation by humans affecting the steady decline in animal populations. The need is here; our next challenge will be working together to share our knowledge and find a way to move forward for wildlife conservation in East Africa.