Aigul Aitbaeva is 25 and works as the saiga project manager at the Centre for wild animals of the Republic of Kalmykia, Russia. Her Young Conservation Leaders award allowed her to develop a colourful booklet about saigas, specifically aimed at children. I wanted to find out more.
Aigul, can you tell me a little about your work?
One of the main objectives at my work is the ecological education of children. I like very much to work in this sphere. Under the leadership of Professor Yuri Arylov, the director of the centre, together with the centre’s staff I give lectures on the problems of saiga conservation and organize a variety of activities, including an annual «Saiga Day» celebration, and conduct excursions for children to the «Yashkul saiga breeding centre».
Tell us about the booklet you produced with the help of the award.
I was very happy to receive this award. It helped me to develop a small ‘saiga booklet’ for children. The publication is intended for additional studies on environmental protection in schools and raises awareness of saiga conservation amongst children fostering, we hope a passion among children for helping save saigas.
In this booklet, in addition to a variety of information about the saiga, I also included some short, fun activities and exercises about saigas. At times it was difficult to know what information to leave in and what to cut out, and I learnt so many new things myself in the process. I loved the challenge of making it appeal to children. After compiling the booklet I had it professionally printed it and distributed amongst our Steppe Wildlife Clubs (which we recently established with the Saiga Conservation Alliance) and to libraries, we also gave books to children who live on remote farms, with which we work and the remainder will be handed out to children when they visit the Centre for Wild Animals, and of course we’ll also use it as a prize on Saiga Day.
What was the highlight of the project for you? I loved being able to take the finished product to the Steppe Wildlife Club at Yashkul school. The children were really excited to get and it was great to see that afterwards it inspired them to think of so many interesting questions.
Do you think the award has helped your personal development in any way?
Yes, of course this project has helped me very much. Mainly, to obtain the confidence in my own abilities to do something to help saiga. I would like to thank very much Saiga conservation alliance for this award.
What would you like to do next to help with saiga conservation?
I will continue to work in ecological education and to engage more young people in Kalmykia in saiga conservation. It would be great to print more books and materials about saigas and invite children from remote villages in Kalmykia to the saiga breeding centre where they have the opportunity to see saigas up close and where I can teach them about saiga conservation.
What would you say to other budding young conservationists to get them to apply for this grant?
Don’t hesitate to apply for this very important award. It is very important to help to save saigas, our national heritage. Remember, that we the younger generation must save this unique animal. If you do not win this time, try again and remember, all your ideas are very important.