Hyderabad: Over 1000 school students participated at an event organized by WCS-India and HyTiCos to commemorate Global Tiger Day.
Walking through the landscape, schoolkids counted the wildlife they saw as also signs of animals all around them. They jotted down what they saw on a sheet of paper. Tigers, elephants, gaur, cheetal, sambar, langur, wild boar, leopard, etc had to be watched out for while also looking for scat, the scent smells and scales. This was an occupancy survey done to record the flora and fauna of the jungle.
Fun games packed with information for kids © HyTiCoS
That was how the weekend turned KBR National Park and Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad into a surreal jungle and school kids into intrepid explorers. The animals and signs they saw were all put up by the organizers to educate the children in wildlife identification while also providing fun.
It was part of International Tiger Day celebration organized by Wildlife Conservation Society-India (WCS) and Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society (HyTiCoS- a Hyderabad-based NGO). The event was spread across two half days on 27th and 28th July 2018 at KBR and the zoo respectively.
Experts explaining various methods for species identification © HyTiCoS
Global Tiger Day is held on 29 July every year since first declared at the Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit in 2010 as a response to the shocking statistics that 97% of all wild tigers have disappeared in the last century.
It is estimated that only around 3,600 tigers are left in the wild, with approximately 50% populations in India, thus making them an endangered species worldwide. Many factors have caused tiger populations to fall, including habitat loss, climate change, hunting, and poaching. The Global Tiger Day aims to highlight the important work on tiger conservation being done across the globe.
Students holding banners on tiger conservation © HyTiCoS
The day started with a general orientation on tigers and their ecology followed by the screening of a few short films. The students were then guided to the areas where posters had been put up. The posters were carefully selected to give a general but overall picture about the science of saving tigers as also about their habitats in AP and Telengana. This covered tiger ecology, methods of assessing animal populations, vital tiger corridors, voluntary relocation, tips on how kids can help, what is the role of citizens, etc.
This was followed by some bird watching where kids went with a field guide and had to identify calls or write down the numbers if seen. They were shown the equipment used in the field like camera traps, GPS etc. and also taught how to use these.
A kid trying to match tiger patterns © HyTiCoS
Four games were organized to pack information and fun together. In one, the groups of four students had to identify the tigers they had on their sheet using a guide. They were taught how tiger stripes vary and how identification is done using that. In another, they had to guess the animal from the clues given about the animal. Following this was the mock occupancy surveys where plots were made and transects marked out. Each trail had placards displaying different animals or signs. The mock survey showed the students how animal identification is done in a real habitat.
Finally, the group had to match the picture of the animal or bird they were given with the right name or picture from other groups.
Imran Siddiqui interacting with officials © HyTiCoS
The students were also encouraged to come up with their own presentations, in the form of a song, dance, skit, posters and so on. The response was heartening. All participating schools were given certificates and posters with a message on how kids could help in conservation. Around 400 students from 12 schools gathered at KBR while around 750 students from 28 schools converged at the zoo.
Celebrities, diplomats, and politicians attend
The event at KBR also saw celebrities, diplomats and politicians attend the same and send out strong messages in wildlife and environment conservation. Film star Amala Akineni, Andrew Fleming, the British Deputy High Commissioner, former Speakers of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, Nadendla Manohar and Suresh Reddy, and politician Khaleequr Rehman were some of the speakers at the event.
Celebrities, diplomats, and politicians seen in the event © HyTiCoS
Amala spoke of her experience with wildlife and conservation for 25 years and inspired students to build a strong connection with nature. Andrew Fleming touched on the repercussions of wildlife trafficking and how it could spell doom for the already endangered tigers. Khaleel Rehman noted the urgency in saving tigers and their habitat while Suresh Reddy spoke about creating the political will for the conservation of tigers, and also appreciated the work being done by WCS-India and HyTiCoS.