In 2011 The Centre for Wild Animals of the Republic of Kalmykia held Russia’s first Saiga Day celebrations. 250 children from the local Yashkulsky and Chernozemelsky districts, as well as some from even further afield attended. Children were treated to a trip to see saiga in their enclosures as well as watching films and hearing about the challenges that saiga were facing.
Image at top: Pupils from Yashkul school demonstrating traditional dancing.
An ecological holiday
Since 2011, Saiga Day has picked up momentum, and the celebrations are thought of locally as an ecological holiday. In 2012 the Centre for Wild Animals worked with teachers at the Yashkul school, located within the saiga’s range, to lunch an ecological club. And, in 2013 the club invited seven other schools from the Republic of Kalmykia as well as students from the Rostov region, to take part in the Saiga Day celebrations that they had arranged at their school.
Uniting students from remote regions
Over 300 students took part in the celebrations, which saw pupils from remote villages coming together for the first time. One student said, ‘Today was a day I will never forget, it was a big saiga party and I had a lot of fun making new friends and playing games. But my favourite part was when I got feed a saiga. I can’t wait for next year!’
The hosts welcomed their new friends, inviting them to explore exhibitions they had conceived specially for Saiga Day. The festivities continued when drama clubs from each of the participating schools gave performances with the theme of “Save the Saiga-our living heritage.”
The day ended on a high note when the Yashkul school treated all the attendees to a concert of live traditional music and dancing. This was followed by a disco which lent a real holiday atmosphere to the event.
The children from the ecological club at Yashkul school worked hard to make Saiga Day such a success. Their knowledge of saiga and their passion for sharing this with others inspired their visitors. Their unique approach of uniting children from across the region in one event to share information and celebrate the saiga together is a formula for success, one which they assure us they will be using again.