CHILDREN’S PARTICIPATION ON SAIGA CONSERVATION
Participants of the eco clubs’
As a part of its effort for conservation of Saiga antelope, the most threatened endemic species of Eurasia, WWF-Mongolia has facilitated an establishment of children’s eco clubs to increase public involvement on conservation efforts. Currently, there are 25 eco clubs within the region functioning as the local change agents.
Evidence suggests that environmental education of children can change the behavior of adult family members involved in illegal hunting and trade. This is why we consider that building self-sustaining eco clubs, which will expand and spread across the entire saiga range area, is essential.To protect the saiga, raise public awareness on specific characteristics, biology, and ecological importance of the species, and call for active public participation in conservation efforts, first time in Mongolia the Saiga Day - “Beauty of semi-dessert ecosystem” was organized among eco clubs of 7 soums (counties) - core habitat area of Saiga antelope.
The organizers did not aim to frame how to celebrate the Day. Instead, let children to think and celebrate by their own within their respective soums. A variety of interesting and motivating ideas and initiatives were come out.
• Eco-club “Dariv Clean Environment” organized a sports event (contest) among three eco-clubs in the school. The eco club members showed interesting dramatic performance composed by themselves and other students. With their fantastic imagination and performance, the children tried to remind and let audiences to understand the species’ specific characteristics.
• M. Unurbat, student of Tugrug soum’s secondary school, displayed an exhibition of his works for local residents. The exhibition included works produced by using different types of materials, for instance, drawings on saiga e.g. “A Herd of Saiga” and “A Happy Saiga” (water coloured), the works “An Orphaned Saiga” (made by rice, millet, and brown buckwheat), and “Kherchin/Male Individual” (made by tooth sticks).
• Moreover, an eco-club of Mankhan soum announced a contest to make works on saiga by using recycled materials. The contest participants forwarded a number of interesting works including images of the Mongolian saiga and Snow leopard by using different types of materials such as yarns, wooden sticks of ice cream, paper, rice, candy wraps, wool, cloths, and sticker-ribbons. Additionally, students displayed billboards sharing information on the saiga for their teachers, school workers, and parents.
• Eco-club members of Bayan-Uul and Tonkhil soums of Gobi-Altai aimag and Chandmani and Darvi soums of Khovd aimag designed training materials by themselves and organized trainings and awareness raising events for parents and employees of governmental institutions and companies of their soums. Additionally, the organizers announced creative artistic work contest among children under a topic “Saiga - the animal we know” to enable children to express their intentions to protect natural conditions of Saiga through their creative art works. Children actively participated and over 500 art works were received. The selected ones were displayed to general public. The activity covered 2250 children and 740 adults. The second phase of “Mongolian Saiga Day” was organized during the summer gathering. 124 children from 12 eco clubs were involved to the gathering. The summer gathering is organized to encourage and motivate the eco-club members, and ones share experiences and knowledge. Members of each eco-club presented how the Day was organized in their respective soums and displayed the works and products to share with other eco club members. The participants also had hot talks on “Wildlife Talks” and “Saiga antelope” with participation of eco-club teachers, drivers, and summer camp workers. During the discussion, participants from Zavkhan aimag, who have limited understanding on the Mongolian saiga, were much interested and got comprehensive understanding. The participants (both the children and adults) specifically those from the areas with the species distributions discussed about the most practical options and measures for the species conservation.