Tiger travails in focus

Tiger ambassadors.

Tiger ambassadors.  

NOT PAPER tigers, but the real one, the national animal, being a perpetual target of persistent poachers, was the focus of a discussion by teachers at the National Public School, Gopalapuram.

The effort to help save forests and the tiger, which ultimately links to saving humans, was kick-started in Chennai by the Kids For Tigers (KFT) jointly run by Sanctuary Asia, the wildlife conservation magazine and Britannia Industries, which tells children to `Eat Healthy Think Better'.

Teachers from 50 Chennai schools turned students for a change when they heard Noel Desa, National Co-ordinator, and witnessed his slide show on the theme for the year, `Understanding Wild Tigers', their life in the wild, the cubs, the young adults in their prime, their habitat and link with humans.

Inspiration goes usually from teacher to student. This time it was the other way round with Std. IX student Shruthi Suresh, who travelled as a Tiger Ambassador to South Africa last year. It was possible, thanks to her teachers and a message to other teachers to encourage their students to get inspired by tigers.

Swarna Ramakrishnan of Wild Ventures said her agency would do the running around to get resources from schools, co-ordinating with the 70 schools which will be involved in a tiger conservation fest to be held in Chennai in January.

A signature campaign on the need to conserve forests and tigers is also on the anvil and the list would be given to the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, she said. ``It's an effort to tell the elders to stop further damage and leave the earth for children to enjoy,'' she affirms.

And age has not sapped the teachers of their enthusiasm. They came up with a whole lot of suggestions such as asking children to put up environment messages on their school notice boards, write environmental tips for the day, let children put up their ideas, drawings and poems on thematic notice boards like rainwater harvesting or protecting tigers.

For 2002-03, KFT has many plans on the anvil including workshops on tiger behaviour and the food chain, besides providing project ideas for schools. Ten children from each school will be selected to form a Tiger Cub Club, for whom nature walks will be organised. Ten children from each city's Club will be selected by KFT to receive book stipends and other prizes, 120 children will attend regional camps out of which 12 will be taken for the Ranthambore camp and Tiger Mela.

The programme will focus on a more hands-on involvement of schools in environmental projects, both at the intra-school level and on a common city project.

Says Swarna, ``Schools in Chennai have been pioneers in reaching pro-environment messages to their children and hence KFT is well received by school authorities.

The yearlong programme will be a hands-on experience for children to do their bit for protecting the environment and saving the forests.''

By Akila Dinakar

Photo: N. Balaji

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