Environmental education is an important pillar of the Snow Leopard Trust’s conservation approach and we have worked diligently to allow for more remote learning opportunities this year. Many of our education programs have altered platforms and focuses as we are reminded more than ever of the necessity to stay connected both to each other and our environment. We are happy to report that these new opportunities have proven quite successful so far!
“The Trust’s vision for its conservation work is to strengthen the relationship between people and their environment,” says Dr. Charudutt Mishra, Executive Director, “Education is the foundation for making that vision a reality.”
There are some great ways snow leopard awareness has been spreading during the pandemic. In Kyrgyzstan and India, our teams sent out materials using cell phone apps to over 300 children, with the help of teachers and school principals. “We made a simple activity program adjusted to the Covid-19 situation that didn’t lead to gathering in groups” says Kuban, director of Snow Leopard Foundation in Kyrgyzstan, “Instead it focused on children doing individual work in the nature/garden around their homes with content focused on the biodiversity of Kyrgyzstan, like vultures, wild cats, and mountain ungulates.”
In India, local youth groups stepped up to help. Following Covid safety protocols, one local youth group mobilized a small field trip, taking children on a nature trek to a nearby conservation site. Abijith of the NCF-India team and a youth group reached out to children in the Spiti Valley, a remote region of Ladakh, to lead a nature-based series of exercises called “Nature from Home.” Examples of their work are shared through this post.
In Mongolia, our team equipped children from nomadic herder families with summer workbooks before they moved out of reach. “We sent the workbooks to bridge the environmental education gap during the pandemic,” says Nadia, education manager for Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation. “The workbooks had 21 lessons on nature with a focus on snow leopard conservation, recycling, and conserving water.”
But the learning hasn’t stopped there. In Himachal Pradesh in India, teams have been hard at work helping local communities develop their own newsletter. “We proposed the idea of a newsletter, called Himkatha (stories from the mountains), where the communities would be able to share their experiences, knowledge, and stories of human-nature relationships—in their voice and for each other,” says Kullu, director of the High Altitude Program at our partner organization, Nature Conservation Foundation. “We started working on the newsletter in summer and in September we printed 2000 copies for distribution in 50+ villages and schools.”
We have also been supporting our sister organization, Snow Leopard Network, to host multiple webinars and training courses online to build the capacity of conservationists across snow leopard range countries. In July, we launched our first online research and conservation training course, featuring month-long modules ranging from trap camera survey design to socio-economic assessments.
There have also been modules on community-based conservation, which can help conservationists continue to improve their community engagement skills during and beyond the pandemic. We have nearly 30 hours of content generated, with more trainings scheduled for November and December. “Although the pandemic has slowed some of our work,” says Charu, we see there is also an opportunity for people to use this time to come together, learn, grow, and develop new skills.”
You can explore our newly-launched education program on our website by visiting www.snowleopard.org/education/.
Major funding in Kyrgyzstan provided by IUCN Save Our Species, Woodland Park Zoo, and David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. Major funding in India provided by Disney Conservation Fund, Seneca Park Zoo, and United States Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Division of Management Authority, Combating Wildlife Trafficking Strategy & Partnerships Program. Major funding in Mongolia provided by David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, Zoo New England, and Seneca Park Zoo. Major funding for Snow Leopard Network trainings provided by United Nations Development Programme & the Global Environment Facility.