When we launched Saiga Day in Uzbekistan in 2007, 3 schools in 2 villages in the region of Karakalpakstan took part and we were thrilled that 1100 people attended the festivities”, remembers Elena Bykova, SCA member in Uzbekistan.
This year the Saiga Day celebrations were bigger than ever, and for the first time were attended not only by schoolchildren and their parents, but also by members of local government, nature conservation agencies, hospital workers, oil companies, kinder gardens and the general public. Lena continues, “Participation in the festivities has more than tripled in the six years we have been running the event, with more than 3500 people taking part this year. We were especially pleased to welcome a new rural village, as well as Nukus, the capital of the Karakalpak region, to our annual celebrations”
School children perform a ‘Saiga Calf Dance’
This year there really was something for everyone, some children excelled in the quizzes about local traditions, ecology of saiga and steppe ecosystems, others performed traditional plays, songs and saiga dances, while for others entering sporting competitions or exhibiting their artistic creations in special art galleries was the highlight of the revelries.
One of our aims this year was to engage teenagers between 14-15 years old, so we invited them to take part in several different ways, not only through sporting events, but also to enter our poster and “Ecological Express” competitions. The former saw teenagers, as well as adults taking part in a competition where winning posters were later displayed in prominent local sites such as marketplaces, town squares and railway stations. While “Ecological Express” comprised several different challenges related to the conservation of saiga and the steppe, and proved to be a real hit with our new audience.
For the first time this year the ‘Saiga Cup’ was presented to the winners of football and volleyball tournaments. This competition attracted participants from local councils and police, gas compressor stations and local teenagers, all of whom then had the opportunity to attend other saiga day festivities.
A teacher at school #26 from Karakalpakia believes that “It is extremely important to make a place for nature conservation in people’s souls from a very young age. Our children will shape the future of our environment”.
During Saiga Day in Nukus, older children who are part of their local Steppe Wildlife Club, (a new SCA initiative) took a leading role in a press conference jointly held by the SCA, the Uzbek NGO Ekomaktab and the State Committee for nature protection of Karakalpakstan, where the saiga cartoon; ‘A Steppe Tale’ which was produced in collaboration with local children, was launched.