The book, which is aimed at school children, is entitled ““barfani cheetey se dushmani kiyukar?” (“why make the snow leopard an enemy?”) It was written by Prof. Z. B. Mirza and illustrated beautifully by Huma Wasiq. To reach as many children as possible, the book is in Urdu, which is the most widely spoken of Pakistan’s many languages.
“Children act as efficient messengers when it comes to creating awareness among elders in close knitted families and communities”, says Dr. Muhammad Ali Nawaz, the director of Snow Leopard Foundation Pakistan (SLF), our local partner organization, who has published the new comic book.
SLF launched the book during an event to celebrate Biodiversity Day 2017 at the Pakistan Museum of Natural History (PMNH) in Islamabad. The event was jointly organized by Ministry of Science and Technology, Pakistan Science Foundation, PMNH, Ministry of Climate Change and Snow Leopard Foundation (SLF).
The event was attended by large number of students from schools, colleges and universities from Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Mirpur AJK, Haripur KPK. Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Climate Change & Green Pakistan Programme Syed Rizwan Mehboob was chief guest at the occasion.
Describing the theme and objective of the Dr. Nawaz emphasized the importance of awareness and environmental education to children. He told the audience that a productive message is conveyed in a simple and subtle manner through this book. It’s SLF’s first environmental education publication, but a series of follow-ups are already planned. The book will be distributed free of cost mainly in schools in the snow leopard habitats of Gilgit and Chitral, but also nationwide.
“These children will grow up and eventually take charge of social responsibilities and actions in their villages and towns”, Dr. Nawaz said. “They can certainly bring changes in terms of norms and traditional decision making. Education plays a vital role in building the capacity to understanding complex issues such as wildlife conflicts, and making positive and productive decisions which eventually benefit the whole community.”
The comic book’s story revolves around a group of villagers who are concerned about the killing of livestock by snow leopards. As a reaction, they initially plan to poison the cat. Fortunately, the local wildlife guard and SLF field staff step in to explain the reasons behind the livestock attacks; the importance of conserving pastures and forestation, and grazing livestock as far away as possible from snow leopard prey area.
In the end, the villagers understand the message, and wild prey animals start to come back, thus restoring the ecosystem’s balance. The local community even begins to rekindle the friendship with the snow leopard that their ancestors had.
“The invited school children and other guests showed keen interest in the book at the SLF stall. Right after Dr. Nawaz had introduced the book on stage, they rushed over to the stall to grab a copy”, says Moiz Rafi, SLF’s communications specialist. “Many kids asked important questions about snow leopard and its habits and SLF’s role in protecting the cats. The highlight was to see them taking selfies with snow leopard pictures we had printed on the stall’s décor wall!”