A local conservation group ties up with 30 schools to build awareness about preserving the environment and wildlife, particularly the tiger, among children, using entertaining videos and Nature walks for the purpose

A video of animals and birds set to the famous Matt Munro tune Born Free is shown to 60 middle school girls. They watch a polar bear wriggling in the ice, an elephant swimming in the sea and a group of birds flying in the evening sky, with much excitement.

The message is that animals should be allowed to live and roam in their natural habitats, without people encroaching on them. Another animated video presentation talks about the ill-effects of bottled water. While the girls laugh at the animated stick figures spitting out impure water, a message about the dangers of packaged water is driven home. This is one of the many sessions that R Mohammed Saleem, president of the Environment Conservation Group and city co-ordinator of ‘Kids for Tigers,’ will conduct with the children of St. Joseph’s Matriculation Higher Secondary School at Trichy Road. Saleem has tied up with 30 schools in the city for this campaign, conducted with the support of NDTV, Aircel and Sanctuary Asia to create an urge among children to save the wild tigers and their habitat.

The overwhelming response of schools and awareness amongst children have caught Saleem by surprise. At a recent session, when children are questioned about the total forest cover that the state has, he gets the prompt and correct reply, 17 per cent,. When asked about the number of countries that the tiger can be found in, the reply is equally instantaneous. “Children have answers to questions on the environment that many adults don’t, and will do their bit to preserve the environment if moulded at the right time. These workshops are essential for them, as they will take home important messages of conservation,” he says.

Five children from each school will eventually be selected by their teachers as tiger ambassadors, and one will get to go on a fully sponsored three-day trip to a popular tiger reserve in the country.

While the younger children are shown informative videos , the older ones from class IX and above will be taken on field trips to nearby eco tourist spots. The first nature walk has already been a hit. Children from a private school in Tirupur went on a short trip to Baralikkadu and came back energised.

“Field trips are a great way for older children to observe trees, birds and animals and find out about their co-existence. For instance, children noticed butterflies flocking to a particular tree, through which they came to know that the survival of the species is dependent on that particular tree,” he says.

“The current generation of children has seen far less trees and vegetation around their homes than we did. They are also growing up with several other distractions. Prior to this campaign, the children planted ten saplings in the school campus, showing their keenness to increase tree life in the campus,” says a proud Anita Sagar, high school Biology teacher at Carmel Garden Matriculation Higher Secondary School. Experts from Sanctuary Asia will be coming in from Mumbai to train the teachers on environment and wildlife conservation, as the initiative gathers momentum.