Saiga Day united people from the remotest parts of Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Mongolia
Saiga Day is an international event which has been celebrated in Kazakhstan, Russia and Uzbekistan since 2011. In 2016 young conservationists from Mongolia joined Saiga Day. The holiday occurs within the calving period and is celebrated in saiga range areas. The main goal is to shape children's ecological culture and concepts, to draw adults' attention towards wildlife conservation issues and to increase knowledge of steppe ecosystems, their fragility and the necessity for everyone to take part in conservation.
Eugenia Samtanova and Aigul' Aytabayeva, Yashkul State Diversified Gymnasium, email@example.com
Yashkul State Diversified Gymnasium, which pioneered the celebration of the Saiga Day in Russia, held a series of events dedicated to saiga conservation in 2016. On the eve of Saiga Day it organised the Steppe Antelope art competition, which aimed to make children understand the need to protect and conserve saigas, to increase their wildlife conservation activity and to foster care and consideration for wildlife. Sixty schoolchildren of all age groups participated in the competition. The winners were awarded certificates and were given an opportunity to take part in a mural project (see above).
The members of the 'Living Heritage' club organised a small concert for the school's pupils and guests. A group of ecology fans and a team of actors, both part of the club, presented new and interesting programmes. The pupils and teachers of Yashkul school also gave a charity concert for the villagers. All the money obtained from the performance was used to pay for medical treatment for a mother and her child from a large family living in Yashkul'.
In addition, the school hosted an event called Steppe Day, which featured young environmentalists from schools in the Khulkhuta, Molodezhny, Yashkul' and Chernye Zemli Districts, as well as researchers from Cherniye Zemli Biosphere Reserve and guests from Moscow, St Petersburg, Kazan' and Korolev. An ecological game was played. After that, Dr A. Oleksenko, biologist, artist and expert from the Wildlife Conservation Centre, gave a master class in drawing wild animals. The students also attended a photo exhibition on the flora and fauna of the steppe.
Natalia Shivaldova andElena Bykova, Ecomaktab, Saiga Conservation Alliance,firstname.lastname@example.org
Early in May, 2016, the traditional Saiga Day was celebrated in Uzbekistan. However, 'traditional' does not mean 'boring'. Saiga Day was particularly busy in Karakalpakstan this time. People of all ages participated, from the youngest children to experienced aksakals(elders). This year employees of Uz-Kor Gas Chemical company, near Kyrk Kyz village, joined the ranks of saiga defenders. They celebrated the day by planting saxaul and working to restore land in their area. They also held a conference on saiga and biodiversity conservation on the Ustyurt Plateau. The State Committee for Nature Protection of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan and Saiga Conservation Alliance attended the conference, as well as people from Kyrk Kyz village, who were concerned about wildlife conservation in their area.
Prior to Saiga Day, a series of football matches took place in the village of Jaslyk, with the military and police, employees of local companies and older schoolchildren competing. The children and teachers from School No. 54 won the Saiga Cup. The football cup opened a series of sporting events dedicated to saiga conservation. Adults were eager to find out who were best at weight lifting and arm wrestling.
The Ecological Express, which has already become quite traditional, was held successfully in Jaslyk and Karakalpakstan. 'Changing trains' at different stations, children showed their knowledge of ecology, foreign languages, arts and sports. As usual, the audience were most interested in short performances about the ancient traditions and customs of their native land, the sporting competitions and the popular game "The Migrating Saiga". Children from a kindergarten in Jaslyk organised their own Saiga Day and watched The Steppe Fairytale, an animated story about a little saiga.
Almost every villager in Jaslyk came to see the evening show on Saiga Day. Childrens' concerts alternated with performances by adults and award ceremonies. As darkness fell, the audience watched the documentary 'The saigas of the Ustyurt Plateau. A right to life' produced by Uzbek documentary makers with the participation of villagers and the support of the Saiga Conservation Alliance.
Puppet theatres were absolutely new elements to this year's Saiga Day. Members of the "Nadezhda" (Hope) steppe wildlife club from Nukus and "Akboken" (Saiga) from Jaslyk took part in a puppetry master class given by Alexandra Zaslavskaya, prepared mini-performances and learnt to make dolls and decorations for themselves. After several rehearsals the children turned into mature actors telling stories about good and evil, and love and care for animals. Students from Jaslyk took part in "Leave Your Mark", an ecological event in which they painted the wall of an eco-garden with scenes from the life of the saiga. 'Rich and diverse wildlife is the ideal we are trying to achieve!', as the children noted. It was a pleasure to see that all the events were actively supported by adults.
Mukhit Suttibayev,ACBK, email@example.com
In late May-early April Kazakhstan also celebrated Saiga Day. This joyful holiday, which has already become a tradition in the country, was held within the Akboken network of Saiga Friends clubs, which includes five schools in Shalkar District, Aktobe province, instituted by ACBK in cooperation with Fauna and Flora International, as well as at a steppe club in the village of Nursay, Kaztal District, East Kazakhstan province, which was founded in 2014 with the support of the Saiga Conservation Alliance.
Saiga Day lasted all day in Aktobe province. Students of all ages participated in exciting and informative activities, which included contests, games, a concert and a film about saigas. Towards the end of the event the most active students, who demonstrated the deepest knowledge of wildlife, were awarded diplomas, letters of gratitude and prizes.
Saiga Day continued in Central Kazakhstan, at the visitor centre of Korgalzhyn State Nature Reserve. ACBK organised an event in cooperation with the Saiga Conservation Alliance for the children of a school camp in Druzhba village and a school in Korgalzhyn village. It was the first time that an event dedicated to the saiga had been organised in the range of the Betpakdala saiga population. Although it was the summer holidays, over 100 younger students from both schools participated. The children played games, watched cartoons about saiga, demonstrated their abilities in a drawing competition and shared their knowledge about wildlife in a quiz. The most enthusiastic students were given letters of gratitude, diplomas, comics about saiga and T-shirts.
We are very thankful to the teachers, who are working actively to provide ecological education for the children and are enthusiastically supporting nature protection initiatives.
Buyanaa Chimeddorj, WWF-Mongolia, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Altai-Sayan ecoregion hosts the endemic endangered Mongolian saiga, whose conservation is widely supported by children. Some local people dislike the saiga because they feel it competes with domestic livestock for pasture. Therefore, children are one of the most important target audiences to send messages to communities. A new initiative entitled "One Day as a Ranger", supported by WWF-Singapore and the Silent Foundation, is supporting saiga rangers and children's eco-club members to come together for saiga conservation.
This initiative was part of "Mongolian Saiga Day", which lasted for a week from 15th to 22nd of April 2016 in the saiga range soums (districts) of Gobi-Altai and Khovd aimags (provinces). Wide-ranging activities were conducted during this week, which at least 1000 children were part of, including a drawing competition and Q & A sessions on "Who know the most about Saiga?". A roundtable discussion organized by the children's clubs raised important challenges including the threats to saiga and how students can contribute to its conservation. Some eco-clubs also organized tree planting events involving locals and other stakeholders. A Facebook group was created to enable children to discuss activities and exchange information.
"One Day as a Ranger" started with a trip to get acquainted with the saiga's habitat, including children, rangers, a meteorologist and herders. The meteorologist gave information on the climate of the area and how vulnerable saigas can be to climate change. The rangers were the main heroes of the day in their efforts to make children feel what it's like to be a ranger; they gave a great talk how to monitor saigas, observe how livestock change their habitats and use GPS. The son of Batzaya, a saiga ranger from Tugrug soum of Gobi-Altai aimag, shared his experience of saiga monitoring, patrolling and population assessment with his father during the school holidays.
It is worth noting that WWF-Mongolia highly appreciates the contribution of children's eco-clubs to the conservation of the endangered Mongolian saiga. Thanks to the combined efforts of many stakeholders, the saiga population has increased from 5,000 to about 14,000 and extended its habitat by 13% over the last decade.