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Stobie Fairfield on a trek in Solo Khumbu, Nepal in 1995
A 1992 graduate of the Environmental Program, Stobie Fairfield is now developing a culturally appropriate environmental awareness program at the Kathmandu Zoo in Nepal for the 750,000 to 1,000,000 rural Nepalis who visit the zoo each year.
Stobie first went to Nepal as part of the
College Semester Abroad sponsored by the School for International
Training. While she was there she encountered ENVS Professor Bill
Eddy who was working with the Nepalese Department of Wildlife and
Parks. At that time he was looking for a suitable site in Kathmandu to
develop an environmental awareness center.
Stobie eventually returned to the University, graduated, and set off on an around theworld trip that landed her again in Kathmandu. Her goal was to find some way to live and work in Nepal. Back in the United States she held various jobs and s aved enough money to return to Nepal, where she volunteered with the Save the Children Federation and other NGO's. Broke, she came home to Maine for several months this past summer to earn enough money to go back. Out of the blue, Stobie got a call from Bill who invited her to join his project at would you believe it the Kathmandu Zoo. Says Stobie, "I was ecstatic when this came through. I was committed to working in Nepal and it had been a difficult process of taking any volunteer job I could get to do so. I have a very supportive family and Bill to thank for helping me finally make this dream possible."
Bill has been working to refurbish and reconstitute the Kathmandu Zoo as a center for introducing local people to diverse and critical environmental issues. He envisions the project as a grassroots effort supported by local Kathmandu businesses. The U.S. Ambassador to Nepal, Sandra Vogelgesang, and nongovernmental organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature have all been involved with his project. Stobie was offered a job through the World Wildlife Fund to initiate the zoo's education program. Bill found a small grant through the Center for Extinct and Endangered Species, so that before her departure for Kathmandu she was able to visit the Atlanta Zoo to learn about its unique outreach programs with zoos in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Entebbe, Uganda. Because of his graduate research in Nepal, Atlanta Zoo Director, Dr. Dietrich Schaaf, had a special interest in hearing of the new position created for Stobie and other plans for the zoo in Kathmandu.
Zoo Gets a FaceLift
With her proficiency in the Nepali language, Stobie is able to bring together a number of local Nepalese organizations. One has facilitated the formation of a Friends of the Zoo Society. Local university students are being trained to serve as volunteer guides for Nepalis visiting the zoo. "We've spent five months increasing community involvement and changing the public image of the zoo. Our most successful event was a community workday where 300 volunteers whitewashed the zoo. It was a chaotic mess, but when the day was done the zoo had a fresh facelift that reflected all of the positive changes taking place. We now have a foundation to create and implement programs."
Because so many of the rural visitors do not read, education programs will use storytelling, traditional dance, and the celebration of religious festivals as familiar ways to convey environmental concepts. Bill Eddy comments about Stobie's work, "I get a fax from her every ten days or so and her enthusiasm for what she is doing is really contagious. The zoo is going to be a very different place because of Stobie!"