Since Snow Leopard Trust’s eco-camp program expanded to Kyrgyzstan in 2018 and then resumed in 2021, hundreds of kids have traveled to snow leopard habitat to learn more about the wildlife and plants native to their home country. On this particular excursion to Shamshy Wildlife Sanctuary, once a trophy hunting ground, eight young students were lucky enough to be chaperoned by Kuban Jumabai, Director of Snow Leopard Foundation, our country partner organization.
Kuban is an experienced conservationist, but it was his passion for wildlife photography that sparked a fire on a rainy day in Shamshy. See the gallery below for a small collection of his photography – including a selfie!
“On the first day, two of the boys became fast friends. They were like twin brothers. Always together,” Kuban remembers. He passed out three cameras to the eight kids and tasked them with photographing as many flowers and plants as they could find. When they reconvened, they discussed the different species they saw, picked their favorite images and talked about photography.
“The two boys complained that the girls didn’t let them use the cameras, so they didn’t have a chance to take any of their own pictures,” remarks Kuban. And then the next day, their initial frustration was further dampened by rain, forcing the group to stay close to their cabin for the day.
While the students busied themselves with projects in the dry cabin, Kuban saw a teaching opportunity, “I went out with my camera and started taking pictures of birds in the nearby meadow.” The boys followed and watched as he photographed finches in a nearby tree. “I showed these boys zoomed-in pictures of the colorful red birds, which immediately changed their mood.”
“The two boys spent hours in the meadow searching for birds to photograph, even refusing to come for dinner. They took hundreds of bird pictures. In an instant, they became birdwatchers forever.”
Kuban mentioned they even asked about the cost of a camera, insisting that they would ask their parents for one when they returned home. You can see a glimpse into their first amateur bird-watching experience below.
This is just one example of the positive impact that Snow Leopard Trust eco-camps have on participating youth. Kids in Mongolia and India have also shared their positive experiences, becoming more enamored with nature and fostering a passion for conserving and protecting the land and wildlife around them.
Kuban states the importance of experiencing this firsthand, “If you want kids to learn more about nature, take them to nature. Give them a camera or binoculars, it will never fail to spark their curiosity.”
Kuban’s passion for conservation and wildlife photography has instilled a lifelong interest in these children, connecting them to the natural world in ways they might otherwise have missed.
If you’d like to help further ignite a passion for conservation in young people, please consider supporting our eco-camp programs by making a donation here.
This project is in collaboration with Snow Leopard Foundation in Kyrgyzstan. Special thanks also go to Woodland Park Zoo, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and Acton Family Giving for supporting conservation education in Kyrgyzstan.