The war is not lost. On 5 May, exactly a month before countries across the globe celebrate World Environment Day, a tiger census at the Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan showed that there has been a mini-boom in the tiger population at the Park, with 14 new cubs sighted.
So, there is hope for the national animal yet. And the most likely allies who can work towards saving the tiger are children, the ultimate guardians of our natural wealth. They should become the leading force behind the “Save the Tiger” mission. Here are five simple, yet effective routes:
Write to the Prime Minister
Devanshu Sood, 15, a student at the Shriram School, New Delhi, along with thousands of other children across India, wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, asking his office to take steps to protect the rapidly dwindling tiger population that touched an all-time low figure of 1,411 earlier this year. He and others met Singh on 17 March. In a public speech, the PM acknowledged the children’s concern and increased the wildlife budget by Rs50 crore, earmarked specifically for strengthening protection in tiger reserves.
With a little effort on your child’s part, this cub’s chances of survival will increase (Photo by: George Nikitin / AP)
A simple step like penning a letter to the Prime Minister got results. This is not a pointless exercise. Political leaders (like the PM, the chief minister of a state and member of Parliament) holding office usually respond to the letters they get. So, if your child addresses a letter to the PM, she will get a response.
By this simple exercise, she will also learn something valuable —being a citizen in a democracy means more than just casting her vote; it requires active involvement with issues she cares about.
Launch a signature campaign
Kids for Tigers, a signature campaign designed by the Sanctuary Tiger Programme in 2001-02, had children from 14 cities across India collecting at least 20 signatures each on a letter addressed to the PM. Eleven-year old Nasreen Patel from St. Joseph’s School, Agripada, Mumbai, single-handedly collected 1,000 signatures. The letter urged the PM to protect the tiger by protecting its forest home. More than one million signatures were collected and the then prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, met a contingent of 20 students in New Delhi.
Your child can ask other children and grown-ups in your colony and at their school to sign on a petition addressed, again, to those in power. She will learn how to take others along with her for a cause she believes in. She might be questioned and will have to come up with convincing answers about why saving the tiger and our forests is a worthy cause.
Visit tiger reserves
S. Nirmit, 20, was a student at Clarence Public School, Bangalore and has been actively involved in Kids for Tigers since he was 12. He has been to Bhadra Tiger Reserve and Ranthambore Tiger Reserve through Kids for Tigers. Today, he conducts nature trails for Bangaloreans.
So, if there is a choice between Goa and Jim Corbett National Park, choose Corbett. Boosting wildlife and nature tourism is an important way of protecting our natural heritage. The tourism industry employs people living in and around protected areas. By visiting wildlife destinations, you will empower these communities, help them achieve financial security and wean them from collecting firewood and minor forest produce from the forests.
Kids for Tigers has organized nature camps and nature trails to many wildlife destinations across India—the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan; Sundarbans Tiger Reserve, West Bengal; Bhadra Tiger Reserve, Karnataka; and Tadoba Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra. Besides going on wildlife safaris, students interacted with tribal children and forest staff to get a holistic idea of the needs of wildlife, local communities and the forest department.
Join a nature club or start one
Some years ago, nine-year-old Madhav Subramanyam of Mumbai raised some money for tiger conservation by dusting houses, polishing shoes and watering plants—charging a few rupees for each chore. He then made paintings of tigers and sold them to his friends and relatives. Soon he had collected an impressive Rs15,000. He donated this money to the Satpuda Foundation, which is dedicated to tiger conservation.
A children’s nature club at school or in the neighbourhood could carry out a tree plantation and maintenance drive, or catalogue birds, insects and plants that are found in the neighbourhood. It could organize walks to wetlands and nearby forests, and invite wildlife specialists for talks. A talk by a snake rescuer, for instance, would be both entertaining and eye-opening. The club could also raise money for tiger conservation.
Do not waste
Varsha Negi from Brightland’s School, Dehradun, was the Tiger Ambassador in 2002 when she was 13 years old and was selected to attend a camp in South Africa. An engineering student now, Varsha is still supporting Kids for Tigers by recycling her waste, saving energy, water and paper, and also influencing people around her to do the same.
Teach your child never to waste natural resources, many of which are taken from the tiger’s habitat. They shouldn’t leave the tap on longer than needed, they should switch off the light, fan or the air conditioner when leaving a room, say no to plastic and buy goods manufactured locally.
Anish Andheria is a director with Sanctuary Asia.
(As told to Himanshu Bhagat)
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