Conservation education in the Himalaya
The hardy, mountain-living people in the Himalayan region have sustained agriculture and pastoralism through their traditional knowledge and socio-cultural practices for ages in the apparently harsh climatic conditions.
The conservation education programme was started to address the conservation threats facing wildlife in the high altitudes. The main aim is to communicate the need for conservation of the snow leopard, associated wildlife and the fragile habitat in which they live to the stakeholders sharing these landscapes. In the last decade of the conservation education programme, we have engaged with varied groups of stakeholders including school children, armed forces, local people and tourists to create awareness about local biodiversity through different approaches like nature camps, targeted posters, workshops, and informal discussions.
Conservation education has been our stronghold with participation of over 1000 children from Spiti since 2006 and more than 400 children from Ladakh since 2008 during our annual nature camps. Nearly 35 schools from the region successfully run the Himalayan Nature Clubs initiated by the programme. We developed a children’s workbook with an accompanying teacher’s guide for the local schools that are used around the year to conduct activities by the school teachers independently. Apart from this, our book, Nono the snow leopard has been a great success with young as well as adult readers across the country. We also developed and released three posters , prepared by local artists focusing on religious beliefs, to spread conservation messages among the adult population of the regions in which we work.
Specific actions target negative behaviours and other discrete tasks such as hunting of wildlife in retaliation and poaching. Collaboration with other institutions and individuals, and capacity building and networking are important elements of the strategy. The products, programmes, and activities are monitored and evaluated using indicators and specific outcomes. It is anticipated that widespread awareness among local people, reduction in conflict and ultimately increase in wildlife populations are the likely short and long term outcomes of the conservation education interventions.