Last Wilderness Foundation believes that the people living in and around India’s ‘protected areas’ are as much the custodians of the forests as the rest of us.Therefore, to give them an opportunity to appreciate and understand the forest better, Last Wilderness Foundation, in partnership with the management of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve (Madhya Pradesh Forest Department) conducted an awareness programme between 23-27 April, 2012 for the students from 5 different villages – Damna, Mardari, Machkheta, Gata and Ghagud, which fall within the buffer area of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve. Owing to their proximity to the park, these villages have a history of man-animal conflict and hence, were chosen for this endeavour. This programme was attended by 94 students within the age group of 5-15 years, who study in schools that come under the ambit of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan scheme conducted by the Government of India.
These children were taken inside the reserve for safaris in vehicles that were provided by BTR. Apart from observing wildlife including tigers, they were also taken to various important locations in the park such as Badi Gufa, Shesh Shaiyya etc. as well as the interpretation centre. Each ride was also followed by a presentation /movie on the importance of the tiger in our forests and the need for its conservation.
Before these sessions many of the children thought of tigers as cattle-killers and man-eaters. However, post the sessions, it was heartening to note that they changed their points of view. Having learnt about the tiger and its importance in the ecosystem, they emphasised the need to protect it.