4 Aug 2014

Chester Zoo has teamed up with Everton in the Community to raise vital funds for Act for Wildlife and the Gashaka Biodiversity Project (GBP).

Chester Zoo has joined forces with Everton FC’s official charity, Everton in the Community, to raise money for our Gashaka Biodiversity Project. The partnership will see both charities work close together to further develop the Gashaka Biodiversity Project, its outreach and the work it does to save wildlife habitats in Nigeria’s largest National Park.

Gashaka Gumti National ParkGashaka Gumti National Park

This collaboration and fundraising campaign, named Balls to Extinction, is a ground-breaking partnership. And throughout summer, a team will be at Chester Zoo selling Balls to Extinction scratch cards to raise money for the project.

Everton in the CommunityAt Everton FC: Ian Snodin (retired Everton player), Dr Umar Buba (GBP Project Manager), Michael Salla (Health and Wellbeing Manager at Everton in the Community) and Scott Wilson (Head of Field Conservation at Chester Zoo)

The money raised will go directly towards fighting to save the Gashaka Gumti National Park and its wildlife from threats such as encroachment and poaching.

On top of fundraising activities, Everton in the Community will help us to organise two football tournaments in Nigeria, which will provide us with a great opportunity to engage with local communities and raise awareness of conservation, health and wellbeing.

Scott Wilson, head of field conservation at Chester Zoo, explains:

“Engaging communities is so often an essential element for conservation success. This is particularly true in Gashaka Gumti National Park and this is a fantastic opportunity to work alongside Everton FC to use football as a means to deliver important health and conservation messages.”

Gashaka communityLocal communities in Gashaka

Football is an international language and a popular activity in Nigeria, which makes the two football tournaments a fantastic chance to communicate with the local people.

At each football event we will provide short educational films around the importance of looking after Gashaka Gumti National Park, as well as providing the local people with more information on how they can stay safe and look after their health and wellbeing.  A mobile vaccination unit will be there too, providing free vital vaccinations against disease and a health care handbook written for African communities will be presented to the village elders.

Working closely with the local communities

The Gashaka Biodiversity Project also provides employment and training for the local communities and works closely with the National Park Service assisting in contributing to the infrastructure, resources and skills required to effectively manage this important habitat.

Local communities are vital in helping control any illegal activities and making sure the forests are protected. Dr Umar Buba, project manager of the Gashaka Biodiversity Project, explains in more detail:

“Most of the illegal activities that always attract local people into the forest is in search of a better living. So if everybody has something to do to make a living from they will no longer concentrate on the forest. We have immigrants from neighbouring states that come to destroy our ecosystem in the form of hunting, they cannot do that on their own; they have to involve someone from the local communities to be able to be successful in the forest as it is very dense. If you don’t know the area you could go in and never come out again!

“If the standard of living for the local people is improved then there will be less pressure on the natural resources.

“There is a lot of improvement in the community because of the coming of the Gashaka Biodiversity Project, and with that the illegal activities that the communities were fond of – such as going into the forest to hunt for animals, fishing, removal of parts of trees for herbal reasons, and so on – has reduced. They are becoming aware of the importance of the natural resources to them.”

Umar at EvertonDr Umar Buba (GBP Project Manager) with Michael Salla (Health and Wellbeing Manager at Everton in the Community)

The average life expectancy of those living in Gashaka is around 40 years old, infant mortality is high and education is low. The Balls to Extinction campaign will help provide development aid to communities and by doing so it will reinforce the conservation messages and engage communities to support the project’s conservation activities.