India has three of the 34 IUCN declared biodiversity hotspots in the world (Conservation International, 2007). Being one of 17 mega-diverse countries of the world, it hosts a variety of wild animals and plants some of which are endemic to the region (Puri, 2012). India is also one of the most populated countries in the world with a population of approximately 1.2 billion. This immense population density has adverse effects on its natural habitats causing wide-scale fragmentation and destruction of fragile ecosystems. Habitat fragmentation and destruction in turn has a detrimental impact on free-ranging populations of wild animals and endemic plants.
Aaranyaa strongly believes that conservation awareness programmes are important to educate people on issues critically affecting their natural environment. Through these conservation education programmes, local communities, urban societies, students and children can be encouraged to reduce their dependence and protect their environment and to take part in conservation programmes. Aaranyaa’s Conservation Education Programmes are aimed at increasing the level of awareness in both urban and rural populations towards issues that besiege their natural environment. It also aims to elicit public support for biodiversity and biocultural diversity conservation through modern well-planned workshops, camps and presentations in both urban and rural settings.
Some of Aaranyaa’s projects in her Conservation Education Programme are:
Urban conservation education programme for children
Two week camps at rural and nature reserves: Outcomes of these camps are aimed at increasing local and regional knowledge on issues that impact the environment and wildlife. Simple lesson Plans include outdoor activities that engage children in identifying wildlife species and trees most threatened by human pressure and ways and means of counteracting these effects. Studies have shown that several species of free-ranging wildlife depend on flowers, seeds and fruits for food. These food resource trees are also a source of Non-timber Forest Products (NTFP) the harvesting and sale of which is a source of income to the local communities who subsist in these areas. Aaranyaa’s Conservation Education Programme will endeavour to increase children’s awareness of their natural environment and the threats and the need for sustainably harvesting of NTFPs. Aaranyaa’s focus on bio-cultural conservation will involve children in understanding the role of indigenous people’s knowledge and culture and their past stewardship of the forests. They will gain first-hand experience of these communities and explore the need for the sustainable way of living.
Rural conservation education programme for children
A considerable proportion of the Western Ghats rainforests have been converted to private plantations1. Through capacity building and improving eco-literacy, similar field conservation projects have found local communities to be more receptive to conservation issues and less supportive of conversion of rainforests to private plantations. Through our eco-literacy programme, we envisage creating a new found respect in the communities for this iconic endemic species and the natural environment they live in.
Several species of non-human primates such as the lion-tailed macaques are captured and housed in confinement as pets (Mallapur and Choudhury, 2003). Local villagers are commonly involved for capturing wildlife for the pet-trade. To poach or capture a wild non-human primate, knowledge of the rainforests that they live in is crucial. Our education programme will discuss animal trafficking, discouraging local villagers from poaching and capturing wildlife for pet-trade.
Conservation International 2007 Hotspots by Region, Biodiversity Hotspots. Retrieved 14 February 2012
Kumar A, Singh M and Molur S 2008 Macaca silenus. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.1.
Mallapur, A., Choudhury, B.C., 2003. Behavioral abnormalities in captive non-human primates. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 6: 275 – 284.
Puri, S. K. 2012 Biodiversity Profile of India. Retrieved 14 February 2012