From 17-24th August 25 Uzbek children between the ages of 11-15 joined the SCA’s first ‘Saiga Youth Wildlife Camp’. 18 children from Karakalpakia, the region where saigas can still be found in Uzbekistan and 7 children from Tashkent who acted as ‘local guides’, as well as teachers, SCA members, local eco-camp volunteers and environmental educators, all came together and headed off to the Chimgan mountain range, 100km outside of Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent, for a week of camping and exciting outdoor eco-activities.
On the first day each of the four groups (Wolves, Tigers, Leopards and Falcons) put on a short play related to their group’s namesake, then played instruments and sang and danced the evening away.
After an early morning run the group had a half-day trip to the Chimgan Mountains where they learnt about local wildlife, famous alpinists and the basics of climbing. In the afternoon they had a session outlining different writing styles and how to take notes so that they could write about all the new things they were experiencing in a professional way. The children were given a task to interview elders in the camp (e.g their tutors) and were challenged to design a poster.
Another trip to the mountains in the morning saw the children being trained to become scouts, learning vital survival skills like orienteering, how to purify water and how to identify and use medicinal herbs. In the afternoon the children joined a session about ecosystems and the importance of everything within them. In the evening everyone watched a film about saigas, which was followed by a lively discussion. Afterwards Olya, the winner of SCA’s ‘Young Conservation Leader’ Award gave a brief presentation about her recent trip to Kenya; telling the children all about African animals and culture.
The children had the opportunity to put their news skills to use when they took part in a ‘scouting’ competition, the event even featured on local TV! In the afternoon the children enjoyed learning about the world’s migratory species. And at the end of a busy day they loved watching the saiga mural video and ‘The Life of Pi’, which stimulated a debate about the importance of living in harmony with nature.
The children divided into two groups; one hiked up into the Maliy Chervak mountain and the second trekked down to a waterfall, both groups learning about their natural environment along the way. In the afternoon the teams presented their posters and interviews and recited poems. All the fresh air and outdoor adventures were making the children sleep better than they ever had by now!
The last day:
There was a time for one last hiking and climbing trip to the mountains with a break overlooking the beautiful Charvak Lake. Back at camp the children rehearsed their show for the closing ceremony. They devised three unique stories (butterflies on migration and the obstacles they face, ecologists rescuing a herd of saigas from poachers, and water pollution and its consequences). The evening saw some wonderful songs and dances; including one about saigas, and was rounded off with a huge bonfire party.
For all of the children from Karakalpakstan this was their first time in the mountains and they found it an awe-inspiring experience, it ignited their imaginations and enthusiasm for a week of camping in nature and learning about their country’s natural wonders, as well as becoming proficient in new techniques, and generally having fun!
With the camp over for this year we would like to thank our sponsors; Disney’s Coins for Change, Houston Zoo and Barkamol Avlod for their support in making the event such a resounding success. We were sad to leave 25 new best-friends, but happy to see how they had been inspired by nature, found new skills and an enthusiasm for conserving the world around them. Roll on the 2016 camp!