October 9, 2017: Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) teamed up with its partners, state forest departments and local administrations across a number of its project areas to organise celebratory events for school and college students during Wildlife Week (October 2 to 8).
NORTH AND SOUTH KASHMIR
In North Kashmir, WTI worked in concert with the Department of Wildlife Protection, Jammu & Kashmir, to organise an event on the importance of wildlife conservation. The event, which comprised an inter-school quiz and a debate competition, was held at the New Child Care School, Chahal village in Baramulla district on October 4. The underlying goal: inculcating and encouraging much-needed natural heritage awareness among the youth, making them stakeholders in wildlife conservation.
Speaking on the occasion, Mohd Sadiq Mir, the Wildlife Warden of North Kashmir said: “Developing awareness about wildlife conservation is extremely important – especially among schoolchildren, who are on the threshold of becoming responsible citizens of the nation.”
“The Jhelum Valley is a treasure trove of wildlife and the younger generation has a critical role to play in saving this natural heritage”, said Dr Riyaz Ahmed, who heads WTI’s Markhor Conservation Project in J&K.
A similar event was also held at the Nature Interpretation Centre (NIC) in Hirpora Wildlife Sanctuary, in south Kashmir’s Shopian district on October 6. Ifshan Dewaan, the Wildlife Warden of South Kashmir said: “It is high time that we start to foster a sense of public ownership towards our natural heritage and consider it a shared treasure for our posterity. That is how we can preserve our precious natural wealth.”
A Wildlife Week programme was jointly organised by WTI and the Punajanuru Range of BRT Tiger Reserve, Karnataka Forest Department, at Mudahalli Primary School on October 6. Nine members of the forest department, 27 students and three teachers participated in the programme, apart from members of WTI’s Mudahalli Elephant Link Project team. (Under this project WTI had, in collaboration with World Land Trust and the Karnataka Forest Department, last year initiated plans to secure the Chamrajnagar-Talamalai at Mudahalli elephant corridor, a vital habitat link between Tamil Nadu’s Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve and Karnataka’s BRT Tiger Reserve.)
The welcome address was delivered by Mr Nagesh, a Forest Guard with the Punajanuru Range, followed by introductory talks by WTI Field Officer Shajan MA and Deputy Forest Range Officer Chandra Kumar. Dr K Ramkumar, Manager and Head of the Mudahalli Elephant Link Project gave a talk on the role of elephants in the ecosystem and problems related to their conservation, covering various aspects including elephant distribution, feeding ecology, social organisation, home range, reproductive ecology, human-elephant conflict issues and why securing corridors is important.
A similar programme was conducted at Kolipalaya High School later the same day. Nine forest staff, 130 students, five teachers and the WTI project team were in attendance.
The children at both venues pledged their support for elephants as part of the Gaj Yatra, WTI’s ongoing awareness campaign on the plight of India’s elephants and the need to secure elephant corridors.
RAIPUR AND MAINPUR, CHHATTISARH
In collaboration with the Chhattisgarh Forest Department and with support from Oracle, WTI’s Central India Wild Buffalo Conservation Project team conducted awareness drives across Chhattisgarh during Wildlife Week.
At Raipur, the state capital, the team put up large banners at the entrance of Marine Drive in the centre of the city, an area that saw thousands of visitors during the week. A wall painting drive on the conservation of the wild water buffalo, the state animal, was also conducted over two days at the Salem English Medium School, turning one of the key junctions in the city into a visual messaging platform. Thirty students participated in the two-day drive, which was covered by several local media outlets including Desh TV, Patrika and Bansal TV. A programme was then held at the school premises on October 7, wherein students were sensitised about Wildlife Week and the role they could play as stakeholders in wildlife conservation. Some 46 students and school staff attended the presentation, which was followed by a painting competition for the students.
A painting competition was also organised on October 5 and 6 in the town of Mainpur, which lies in close proximity to Udanti-Sitanadi Tiger Reserve (USTR), the last remaining stronghold of the wild water buffalo’s central Indian population. Seven schools and approximately 100 students participated. Over 380 students also attended the awareness events organised by WTI at Mainpur Government College and High School.
On October 7, more than 500 students from seven schools participated in a rally organised in Mainpur. Despite heavy rain, the students marched for three kilometres shouting slogans in support of the conservation of wildlife in USTR. They were accompanied by a convoy of vehicles with top government officials, members of Joint Forest Management Committees, the District Panchayat Head of Gariaband, the President and members of the Block Panchayat, forest department staff and volunteers. An assembly and presentation held after the rally was chaired by the Deputy Director of USTR and had the Zila Panchayat Chief as the Chief Guest. The five range officers and all frontline field staff of USTR were in attendance. Framed posters on wild water buffalo conservation were presented by WTI as a token of appreciation to the guests.
On October 6, Dr Khanin Changmai of WTI’s Mobile Veterinary Service unit in Similipal Tiger Reserve was invited as a guest speaker to a Wildlife Week event organised by Honorary Wildlife Warden Kishore Mondal and the Banabhumi Mohavidyalyaya College in Baripada. Dr Changmai made a presentation on ‘Wildlife Conservation and its Importance’. S Nath, Range Forest Officer, Pithabata was also present on the occasion. The college’s students staged a short play on how poaching and tree felling adversely impact ecosystems.
A one-day awareness programme was organised to mark Wildlife Week at the WTI-Apollo Tyres Kannur Kandal (Mangrove Conservation) Project’s Mangrove Interpretation Centre in Kunhimangalam on October 2. The program was attended by 50 students and four teachers of the Government Higher Secondary School. WTI Field Officer Ramith M briefed the students about the importance of mangroves and how their conservation could result in sustainable and better livelihoods for local communities. In order to provide the students a first-hand experience of the diversity of mangroves and their associated fauna and flora, they were then taken on a field trip into neighbouring mangrove areas that have been secured under the Kannur Kandal Project.