Comic Book and Illustrations on Wildlife Conservation Published

In late September 2016, ProCEEd published a comic book titled "My Little Deer Friend" and a series of illustrations on wildlife conservation. These publications were first put to good use on the Environmental Tour that has been on the road since early October 2016. Since 2013, the tours have typically used poster series on the 10 FACTs of a given theme, e.g. forest protection. Five posters held two FACTs each, with a photo and 2-4 bullet points of text related to the topic. But the tour operators realized that their rural audiences often have an ethnic background and do not speak Lao language, and that many of them are illiterate. Therefore, back in late 2015, the project decided to use more  visual than text information in its environmental education tools and activities.

 Both publications will mostly be used in remote rural areas and on environmental education bus tours. For both publications, 'rural audience' means that children age 8-10 should be able to understand the illustrations and comic with some explanations, while adult villagers should be able to interpret the environmental context directly. While the 10 illustrations follow the logic and sequence of the 10 FACTs on wildlife conservation, the comic integrates the facts in a consistent storyline. Each of the 10 full-color illustrations of A0 portrait size should be understood on a stand-alone basis but should also take the flow of information across the illustrations into consideration.


The comic is about Mai, a girl who secretly takes care of a small deer suffering from a hunting wound. Fan Noy, the deer, tells Mai about its fate: That more and more hunters are after her and her family for food and for sale, that more and more forests disappear for human settlements, slash-and-burn or big infrastructure projects. Other animals tell Mai the same story: An elephant mentions that only some


thousand of its kind are left in Laos which was once called the 'Land of a Million Elephants', and a cat complains that so few of her family and friends are left in the wild that rats and mice have taken over the rice fields and villages.


As Mai is very moved by those stories she turns to her grandpa for advice and help. He confirms the stories and adds that, indeed, as cats and snakes get less and less because of over-hunting, rats and mice get more and more. As a result, rats and mice eat away the rice harvest on the fields and in the villages storage rooms, and spread infectious diseases. This affects many fellow villagers as they go hungry and some even die of the diseases. Grandpa even explains to Mai that there are laws and regulations that are supposed to protect wildlife but that many people are too preoccupied with surviving from one day to the next that they don't always care about restrictions to hunting, harvesting wild plants or cutting trees to make room for more agriculture or buildings.


Finally, Mai and Grandpa address a community meeting. While the animals watch from a distance in the forest, Grandpa talks sense into his fellow villagers and convinces them to agree on a pledge, helping conserve precious wildlife with a simple act: "Let’s not harvest too much from our village forest so that it can regenerate naturally and will last for many generations. Whenever we hunt animals that are allowed to be hunted, we make sure that enough young animals survive. We follow the law and only hunt wildlife or harvest wild plants for our own consumption, not for sale."


The comic book's basic layout is based on single-panel page, altogether 20 panels. There is as little text as possible accompanying the visualized storyline. The book's final pages leave space for the core messages of the 10 FACTs and some action-oriented recommendations regarding wildlife conservation, and a guideline on how ProCEEd staff or external educators and communicators can use the comic book as a learning aid for pedagogical purposes. Individual elements of all illustrations and the comic book may also be used by ProCEEd for other purposes, educational tools and media formats.


The production process of the illustrations and comic went through three feedback loops for quality improvement and technical correctness, which incorporated comments by staff, international consultant, PADECT and DEQP and a pre-test of illustrations and selected comic book pages with villagers in Khammouane and Houaphan.


Children who had first access to the comic book during the ongoing Environmental Tour on wildlife conservation, were enthusiastic about Mai's story and her efforts with her fellow villagers to conserve precious wildlife. Copies of the comic are distributed during the tours and additional copies are left with local schools and environmental authorities.





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