In August of 2022, “the Taalim Forum and Rural Development Fund held an ethno-ecological “Nomad Kids’ Camp” for schoolchildren and teachers in the village of Shabdan in the Chuysk region of Kyrgyzstan.” The camp was an extension of the Land of Snow Leopard Network and Snow Leopard Conservancy Nomadic Nature Trunk program, funded by IUCN Save Our Species.
The program’s mission is to educate “a new generation of conservation-oriented communities within the snow leopard’s range with the objective of protecting the mountain ecosystems of Central Asia.” It focuses on reviving “traditional cultural & spiritual practices that protect snow leopards,” which are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.
The spotted cat of the high mountains faces a wide variety of threats, including human activities such as mining and energy production, agriculture, construction of roads and rail lines, urban development and expansion, and even civil unrest and war as well as the effects of climate change and severe weather.
This unique program seeks to “create pathways for meaningful indigenous participation in planning for the conservation of the snow leopard species.” Hopefully, it will help to provide a positive future for snow leopards as well as a benefit to humans both culturally and economically.
Eighteen schoolchildren participated in the Nomad Kids’ Camp as well as four of their classroom teachers. They learned about the snow leopard and its habitat, other species of wildlife and plant life within the ecosystem, and about conservation methods. Activities also explored the importance of preserving biocultural diversity by reconnecting with nature while “restoring balance and harmony, reviving the wisdom of the ancestors, and seeking ways for more sustainable development.”
Director of the Rural Development Fund Kuluypa Akmatova spoke about the project and activities of the Land of the Snow Leopard network. Together with the schoolchildren, she discussed issues of how to preserve the health and biodiversity of the mountains and how to preserve and pass on from generation to generation the traditional values of caring for nature.
A highlight of the camp was a hike through the National Nature Park called “In the Footsteps of the Snow Leopard” where the children learned how to be respectful of a national park and in particular about the dangers of forest fires. During the hike, they discussed the characteristics and behavior of the snow leopard and learned about its habitat within the park. They had an opportunity to make and hang birch brooms as food for herbivores and collect medicinal herbs. And they enjoyed a presentation focused on installation of trail cameras and conservation methods used to protect snow leopards and other animals and plants within the ecosystem.
The children also learned about nomadic cuisine and learned how to cook traditional Kyrgyz dishes. And they took part in a number of crafts, including working with an artist to create individual drawings of snow leopards, which they were able to take with them.
At the close of the camp, the teachers commented that not only did the children have an opportunity to experience the beauty of nature but also learned a great deal of useful information that will help them to “become true defenders of it.”
Funded by IUCN Save Our Species
IUCN Save Our Species aims to improve the long term survival prospects of threatened species. It also focuses on supporting the species’ habitats and working with the communities who share this habitat. It achieves success by funding and coordinating conservation projects into multiple initiatives across the globe.
This project is funded by IUCN Save Our Species. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the Snow Leopard Conservancy and do not necessarily reflect the views of IUCN.