Authored by Brad Czerniak

In 2005, work began on_assessing the presence and habitat requirements of spotted-necked otters (Lutra maculicollis) in Kenya and Tanzania. During the project team's trip to Kenya they visited a school conservation club presenting information on the otters and involving students in a field trip experience. As a result of this visit, a small group of teachers formed the Kisumu Science Teachers Lake Victoria Otter and Wetlands Conservation Development Group (KISTOC). By 2009, ten school-based clubs had been formed and the group had reached out to a small group of fishermen struggling to start a small wildlife viewing trip for tourists (HFG). KISTOC activities have consisted of regular meetings while the HFG, with KISTOC's help, have restored 20km of Lake Victoria shoreline, providing habitat for many wildlife species as well as improved fish refugia. Over the intervening years, this group received some support from the otter research team members and the International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF) based in Scotland. This project facilitates further in-depth training, interaction and coordination of Kisumu teachers, students and other groups interested in preserving their lakeshore ecosystem and wildlife. Importantly, this project places a primary focus on activities identified as key to success by the Kisumu area stakeholders, allowing them to co-direct and take ownership of the project and its outcome.

The existing KISTOC clubs are constrained to on-site school meetings due to limited funds. The students and teachers have voiced a desire for more educational material and a need to actually experience the lakeshore ecosystem and its wildlife. They have established goals of contributing to the restoration of lakeshore areas as well as exploring solutions to other conservation issues plaguing their schools and the entire Kisumu area. This project provides educational materials focused on Lake Victoria's ecosystem and its wildlife. It also provides new experiential learning opportunities and the opportunity for students to identify projects they can design and carry out to address some of the environmental issues their community faces.