A grassroots movement to get children and youth interested in wildlife conservation is set to be pioneered in government schools and eventually colleges in the Nilgiris.
With funds from the Special Area Development Programme (SADP), two “incubation centres,” also to be called as “nature discovery centres” are to be set up in two government schools in the district soon. The centres will have information about four cornerstone wildlife species – the Asian elephant, the tiger, gaur and the Nilgiri tahr.
The idea to set up the “incubation centres” came about during an interaction between the district administration, the forest department and the SADP, said Ms. Supriya Sahu, Monitoring Officer for the Nilgiris and Principal Secretary to the Tamil Nadu government.
“These centres will serve as a repository of information about the four animals, their population, distribution, their behaviour, social structure and even their migratory routes,” said Ms. Sahu.
The schools where the centres are to be set up will be responsible for holding competitions and engaging experts to speak to the children about wildlife. Other school students from across the district can visit these schools and take part in the competitions and campaigns, said Ms. Sahu.
Field Director of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve K.K. Kaushal, who was part of the meeting of district officials that brainstormed the idea to form the discovery centres, said that Nilgiris residents were already conscious about living alongside wildlife.
“These centres can further spread awareness among youngsters and spread the conservation message much wider,” he said.
Initially, the number of the centres will be restricted to two, and expanded to four. Efforts are being taken to identify the schools and colleges in the Nilgiris where they can be set up.
“It will be a wonderful contribution of these centres if even a small percentage of the students who have positive experiences about wildlife in these centres grow up to become conservationists and find careers that will lead them to working with and protecting wildlife,” said Ms. Sahu.