In July 2013, 19 students and three teachers came together in the South Gobi for our first-ever Eco-Camp in Mongolia.
Reaching out to children is one of the most important ways to secure a safer future for snow leopards. In 2011, Nadia Mijiddorj, our Conservation and Education Manager in Mongolia, visited our India team, who had been running eco-camps successfully for many years. Her goal was to learn from her Indian colleagues’ experiences and bring their idea to Mongolia. Now, after two years and countless hours of dedicated work, her vision has become reality – and the first Mongolian eco-camp was a great success!
While the kids didn’t get to see an actual snow leopard, they saw many signs of the cats’ presence while they shadowed Sumbee, one of our Mongolian researchers. Using photos from our research cameras, Sumbee introduced the kids to Aztai and Agnes, two of the snow leopards we’ve been following with a GPS collar in the area. He took them into the cats’ habitat and pointed out Siberian ibex and mountain sheep, some of their favorite prey species.
Later, the kids even learned how to use GPS tracking units themselves, as Sumbee sent them on a treasure hunt for hidden objects.
Finally, the children came up with ideas on how they can help protect snow leopards, including protecting prey, not logging, not throwing garbage, and protecting water sources.
“We Want More”
At the end of the camp, the kids received an award for their participation and were asked how they felt about the experience. “We only heard one complaint”, Nadia reports, “the kids wanted to stay more than 3 days!”
These efforts to educate youth are the perfect complement to our ongoing conservation and research programs in Mongolia, including our long-term study and our Snow Leopard Enterprises handicraft program, and will bring greater awareness across multiple generations. In India, the eco-camps have created a sense of pride, ownership and wonder in youth so they can be proud of their snow leopards, and we’re aiming for the same in Mongolia. After the success of this pilot, our Mongolia team is hoping they’ll be able to secure the funding for at least one more camp next year, and possibly many more in the future!