Monday, January 22, 2018
EXCLUSIVE

TIGER HEARTED

Dr Seuss famously had said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better”. When adolescents start caring, things do move in the right direction. Valmi Shah Shirodkar tells us about one similar project.

Kids for Tigers was launched by Sanctuary Asia magazine in the year 2000, as an environmental education programme for schools across India. The programme aims to bring out the vital connection between the survival of the tiger and the ecological security of the Indian subcontinent. Through ‘edutainment’ workshops, tiger fests, nature walks, film shows and tiger information kits, Kids for Tigers seeks to increase awareness among children about India’s biodiversity and sensitize them to the fact that saving tigers and their forests will also secure our water supply and help save ourselves. The programme, in its 16th year, is being sponsored by Aircel and is an integral part of 500 schools and as many as 1000,000 students in 15 cities in India.

Teachers are key to Kids for Tigers. Using teacher-training workshops, tiger fests, nature walks, signature campaigns, public rallies, films and slide shows, the programme moulds over one million young Indians into an active force to save wild tigers. Kids for Tigers’ coordinators also work closely with teachers, parents and students to explain how the survival of wild tigers and their habitat means the survival of nature and every species within it – humans included. The rationale of Kids for Tigers is: “We cannot save the tiger without saving its forest. If we do this, we are saving India’s purest water sources. And by saving fresh water, we save ourselves.”

Kids for Tigers does not believe that children must wait to become adults before taking charge of their destinies. They are encouraged to make their voices heard, to write to powerful decision-makers and influence their own families and communities. The programme has already produced many effective young defenders of the wild. These kids have lobbied for the tiger at a national level, asked for the protection of local wildlife sanctuaries, and met with the Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, Governors, officials in the Ministry of Environment and Forests, editors of newspapers and magazines and public figures of all kinds. They have directly contributed – to the fullest extent that kids can – to tiger conservation in India, a fact recognised and admired by environmental groups in India and abroad. Some of the world’s most credible wildlife experts have taken out time to help groom the most promising among these tiger warriors in their future role at the frontlines of the tiger’s defense.

History

Kids for Tigers has been recognised for its significant impact on public opinion and support for nature and wildlife conservation in India. It has received approval and backing from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Project Tiger, the Armed Forces and several NGOs and individuals involved with conservation, both in India and abroad.

In 1999-2000, Sanctuary visited schools across the country to show a tiger film and to collect one million signatures in support of the tiger. The Limca Book of Records certified this as the world’s largest ‘Save the Tiger’ scroll.

Political leaders and well-known personalities were contacted and their support canvassed for Kids for Tigers. In 2001, the then Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee wrote a letter of congratulations to the children and stated, “The tiger is an indication of the environmental health of India… Protecting India’s tiger forests will not only save this animal, it will also ensure the country’s economic stability.”

In 2002, a school contact programme was planned where children would learn why the tiger needs to be saved with the help of ‘edutainment’ workshops, lessons, activities, projects, tiger fests, nature walks, audio-visual shows, photo-exhibitions and tiger information kits with each year having a specific theme.

The Kids for Tigers programme now helps children of over 300 schools, spread in these 15 cities/towns, grasp the vital connection between the survival of the tiger and the country’s future ecological health.

On January 18, 2002, the Prime Minister granted a private audience to 100 ‘Kids for Tigers’, who handed over petition sheets, tied friendship bands, read poems and through their interaction with him, conveyed their concern for the tiger and steps that need to be taken by the government to ensure its survival.

In 2003, by producing greater synergy between the Kids for Tigers website, Teachers’ Booklet and Teachers’ Workshops, the programme was better ‘institutionalized’ as a reliable support system for schools.

Mini Melas were held in selected cities that were not part of the Kids for Tigers regular programme.

Eco-days dedicated for wildlife and environmental protection, like World Environment Day – June 5 and National Wildlife Week, October 2-9, were celebrated to heighten the impact of Kids for Tigers.

The Junior Tiger Task Force was set up in March by 12 Delhi ‘Tiger Ambassadors’ to save and protect the tiger on behalf of the one million children in India.

In 2006-07, the ‘Save the Tiger’ signature campaign collected 2.7 lakh signatures and presented these scrolls to eminent people. In Mumbai, a representative scroll was gifted to the then Governor of Maharashtra, Shri S. M. Krishna. Similarly in Nagpur and Amravati, scrolls were gifted to the PCCF of Maharashtra, B. Majumdar and other Forest Department officials.

The Sanctuary – NDTV campaign to ‘Save the Tiger’ supported by Kids for Tigers, collected about 5 lakh signatures, which were submitted to the then Prime Minister Shri Manmohan Singh in Delhi in March 2008.

What the Future Holds

Sanctuary wishes to increase the Kids for Tigers’ reach to more number of schools and villages around various tiger reserves in the country. Kashmir is also now part of the Kids for Tigers’ list of states. Even though there are no tigers in Kashmir, we are working to spread awareness about the endangered Hangul, the state animal.

Kids for Tigers can be contacted at http://www.kidsfortigers.org/

May-2016