Vusa the African Wild Dog Guardian

by Sarah Matthias

 

Sarah has long been involved in conservation in Africa through her association with Elephants for Africa, based in Botswana, and Southern African Conservation Trust, based in South Africa. An exciting new opportunity became available when Southern African Conservation Trust invited her to join their rural schools’ education programme and write a new original comic for rural children about the critically endangered African Wild Dog. This entirely new comic is due to be published in the next few months and will represent the tenth comic in the series. This will be followed by an update of the first comic ever produced in 2012, Vusa the Lion Guardian. Vusa the Lion Guardian will be an entirely new comic with new material for rural children about human/wildlife conflict and keeping safe around lions. (See below for a brief summary of the aims and objectives of these educational comics.) Southern African Conservation Trust have commissioned a further comic from Sarah about donkey welfare in Africa which will be published shortly after the above two comics.

Creating the conservationists of tomorrow!

Conservation comics for rural schools

Children in Zimbabwe reading Southern African Conservation Trust’s Educational Comics

Many children in rural areas of southern Africa attend primary schools adjacent to national parks or other protected wildlife areas, living alongside wild and dangerous species every day. However, many children do not know about wildlife and its value to their ecosystem. For many years, Southern African Conservation Trust (SACT) has pursued the goal of creating ‘conservationists of tomorrow’ through its rural schools’ education programme. The initiative aims to encourage children to value their natural heritage through a series of comics aimed at teaching them about the animals, birds and ecosystems under threat around them. The comics provide a great opportunity to discuss sensitive topics in a non-confrontational way, including the illegal activities around critically endangered species. 

SACT uses sponsor/donor funding for its educational program, thus enabling SACT to supply this vital educational material at no cost to the rural communities. Distribution is primarily into rural primary schools located adjacent to national parks and other protected wildlife areas.

Vusa the Lion Guardian, first published in 2012, was the founding title in SACT’s rural education programme, closely followed by Vusa the Wildlife Guardian and Vusa the Vulture Guardian. The 55 000 comics now in circulation follow the adventures of Vusa, an African schoolboy, and his sister, Thandi. The lively stories are hugely relevant to children living in rural areas. Vusa’s adventures in the African bush enable him to teach his fellow pupils how interesting and important dangerous, and sometimes endangered species are. He discusses various threats to wildlife with fellow schoolchildren, and teaches them how to respect their environment at the same time as keeping their villages safe. SACT also publishes a range of engaging educational schoolroom posters, centred on Vusa’s ‘top tips’ for conservation. 

Impact:

With ten titles now in print, from Vusa the Lion Guardian to Vusa the Pangolin Guardian to name but two, the comics are read by tens of thousands of youngsters in southern Africa, helping to educate the younger generation. In addition, because these free comics can be taken home, they are also read by parents, initiating broader open discussions and thus enabling NGOs to work together with individuals from rural communities to come up with practical solutions.

New material created and written by Sarah Matthias:

Over the years these comics have been reprinted many times, with countless design and content updates, and there are more new titles currently in production. For example, 2024 will see the publication of a completely new comic, Vusa the African Wild Dog Guardian, the latest in this series, and Vusa’s Donkey Welfare Manual, once funding is available. Our latest initiative is a full-scale update of our earliest comic, Vusa the Lion Guardian. This comic will share valuable revised information with rural communities and families who regularly have contact with wild lions and need to coexist with them. All these new comics will be created and written by Sarah Matthias.