Future of Conservation Belongs to Youth

Snow Leopard Foundation Pakistan (SLF) has always given importance to awareness and education component for youth particularly students in its program activities. Establishment of nature clubs in schools around SLF program regions in Gilgit and Chitral is part of SLF commitment to enhance the level of interest in wildlife conservation and sustainable biodiversity among youth. Apart from local students, SLF has been involved in conducting conservation learning for students from all over Pakistan. In July the activities were conducted in collaboration with Hamoodur Rahman Foundation (HRF) /Dignosco. The group comprised of grade A-level students from different schools around the country.  The first part of this year’s activities was conducted in Khyber valley where students took part in the construction work of predator proof corral. It was a community support activity which also provided an opportunity to the students to interact with the local community and to know about human and animal conflicts. The construction of corrals has decreased the conflict as it provides shelter to the livestock. SLF team provided the basic knowledge and importance of corrals. The next day, SLF team conducted ecological activities and students where educated on the flora and fauna of the landscape and learning about biodiversity. The second part of planned activities was exciting and all students were looking forward to it since the beginning of their one month tour.  It was Snow Leopard Rebilitation Center (SLRC) at Bishgiri, Naltar. Students were given information regarding the center, its need and utility. The students were excited to see the snow leopard at the center and took photographs while observing its behavior.  SLF professional team briefed the students on the ecology of snow leopard. In question and answer session, the students asked questions about SLF initiatives for the conservation of snow leopard and its prey species. The students took part in the social activity and installed dustbins around the center to keep the area clean and control the degradation of fragile ecosystem. From SLRC the students went to Naltar lake. At Naltar lake students participated in social activities including installation of dustbins around tourist camping areas. The students were briefed about the coordinate system, map reading and use of GPS for navigation purposes. They showed keen interest in learning the ecological survey techniques and after the briefing, students successfully performed map reading and use of GPS in the field. SLF team also provided the technical information and data collection methods used for ecological surveys in snow leopard conservation. Deosai National Park (DNP) was the last location of this year’s activities. At an elevation of 13,497 feet, DNP is also known as the highest plateau of the world. After reaching Deosai the introductory session was conducted in the evening. Students were briefed about various activities including treasure hunt (involving GPS tracking and map reading), behavior of marmots and brown bear (if we got lucky to see one) and habitat characterization. Four teams were formed ranging from 6 to 9 students for the activities.  Students, completed their activities while trekking. Students were asked to observe marmots activity pattern and quantify it into simple graphs. They were told to note the colony size and coordinates through GPS. In habitat characterization activity, students were instructed to bring a specimen of each plant that falls in the bear’s food category. On the last day,  Director SLF Pakistan, Dr Muhammad Ali Nawaz had a friendly lecture with all the students and answered questions  about research activities in the park, snow leopard in Pakistan. The closing session was attended by Syed Abu Ahmad Akif Federal Secretary  Ministry of Climate Change, certificates were given to the winner groups and field gears were distributed among the DNP guards. District Forest Officer Skardu thanked SLF and HRF/Dignosco for supporting the wildlife guards and for providing the field gear to them. The Federal Secretary applauded the students for their enthusiasm and thirst for adventure and was pleasantly surprised to see young minds, so curious and appreciative towards national heritage of wildlife and taking part in the conservation learning activities. The future of conservation belongs to youth and therefore it is important to involve students in ecological and social activities for capacity building, said the Federal Secretary. At the end of the study tour, the students and HRF/Dignosco team thanked SLF team and GB Parks & Wildlife Department for conducting the ecological and social activities which provided valuable knowledge and awareness about snow leopard and environmental conservation.