Rekindling conservation awareness and connections with nature
Islands of rainforest amidst monoculture plantations, people living amidst endangered animals and plants – this is Valparai plateau. To conserve this remarkable ecosystem and cultural landscape and foster human –wildlife coexistence, we use education as a tool for nature appreciation, discovery, and conservation.
Education to conserve rainforest wildlife
In 2007, we initiated a conservation education program in the Anamalai hills. The scope of the programme encompasses diverse sections of the population such as schools and colleges, self-help groups, estate workers, plantation managers, forest department officials, visitors, and the public in general. The programme aims to inform, educate, and generate an abiding and deeper interest in nature and conservation, and to make people feel a part of nature.
We identified specific conservation issues and relevant target groups. Various ways to foster sensitivity to nature and participation in conservation efforts were adopted. We addressed people using slide shows and screening of wildlife documentaries. Students and other target groups were brought to or encouraged to visit our Anamalai Nature Information Centre. We took school students and others along on nature trails and walks in rainforest fragments and surrounding plantations. We addressed students, tourists, forest department staff, estate workers and general public, with presentations on human-wildlife interactions. Educational materials such as books, posters, games, and other audio-visual material was produced in English and vernacular Tamil. In a wide cross-section of English and Tamil magazines, newspapers, and through blog posts, we reached out to readers with a large number of articles on natural history and conservation issues of this region.
Anamalai Nature Information Centre
The Anamalai Nature Information Centre, a unique facility, was first established in 2007 in collaboration with Parry Agro Industries Ltd, an environmentally-conscious plantation company. This centre, located in Iyerpadi near Valparai, showcases information on plants and animals of the Valparai plateau and the Anamalai Hills landscape. The centre initially had four themed rooms: habitats, biological diversity (2 rooms), and conservation, with posters containing photographs and educational information in English and Tamil. Seventy posters with various aspects of nature, conservation issues and ecosystem functions, especially on rainforests, were brought to life in the posters and on the walls that had beautiful artwork by a wildlife artist, Maya Ramaswamy.
A major revamp of ANIC was undertaken in 2018-19 with support from Cholamandalam Investment and Finance Co Ltd. with beautiful paintings and art of landscapes, animals and plants, the ANIC was reopened in April 2019 with a whole set of new displays. These include illustrations and paintings of (1) landscape, (2) biodiversity, and (3) some important trees of the Anamalai hills. The stunning displays were made by talented wildlife artists—Sartaj Ghuman, Rohan Chakravarty, and Nirupa Rao. The artwork has been printed as posters and designed to be accompanied with relevant information. Some of the displays also provides visitors the essence of natural history and fieldwork, which lead to a better understanding of nature around us. In addition, an interactive computer kiosk and a unique fern garden have been established.
Educational films about nature are maintained and screened for local people and school children. Programmes are conducted for school and college students, estate workers, forest department officials, local people and tourists who visit the centre to create awareness on wildlife and nature conservation and on responsible tourism. Educational posters and books on nature-related aspects have been produced by us and are being sold in the centre or distributed to children in schools during activities. A good library of wildlife films, books, and other materials useful for educational programs is also available at this centre.