Project teaches human-animal coexistence to students from various Government Schools
By M.T. Yogesh Kumar
Mysore/Mysuru: ‘Yuva Mithra,’ which was launched to commemorate the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Project Tiger in Bandipur, has garnered recognition from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The initiative, inaugurated in January by the Union Minister for Forests Bhupendra Yadav in the presence of representatives from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), has attracted international attention due to its impactful awareness programmes.
The UNDP has expressed its willingness to provide necessary support for the continuation of this initiative that was launched to commemorate Karnataka’s first Project Tiger that was established in Bandipur on Nov. 16, 1973.
The ‘Yuva Mithra’ initiative facilitates over 15,000 students from various Government Schools to explore the wilderness and learn about the coexistence between animals and humans. Experts and Forest Department Officers play a pivotal role in educating these students annually. Given the abundant wildlife within the Tiger Reserve, there are valuable learning opportunities.
Under this initiative, workshops are conducted and students are engaged as eco-volunteers to instil environmental awareness from a young age. After participating in safari trips, awareness programmes and workshops, students are issued a card and inducted as eco-volunteers.
The overarching objective is to nurture environmentally-conscious youth and conservationists in the new generation. ‘Yuva Mithra’ empowers children by fostering a sense of ownership and connection to wildlife and environmental concerns. Up to now, a total of 3,547 students, 277 teachers, 103 Gram Panchayat members and staff have benefited from the ‘Yuva Mithra’ initiative.
Committee to ensure continuity
To ensure the continuity of the initiative, a Committee has been formed. It includes the Bandipur Tiger Reserve Director, Block Education Officer (BEO) and heads of select voluntary organisations. Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar, a member of the erstwhile Mysore royal family, personally witnessed the awareness programme for school children and expressed willingness to provide assistance.
Plans are underway to include Yaduveer in the Committee. The Committee’s formation ensures the initiative’s sustainability and it is also striving to increase awareness about wildlife conservation among Gram Panchayat members
According to Dr. P. Ramesh Kumar, Director of Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Bandipur, renowned for having the highest elephant population and the second highest number of tigers in the country, has also secured the second place in wildlife conservation.
“There is now a crucial need to raise awareness among those living in forest-bordering areas and instil a sense of pride in ‘Namma Bandipura.’ The pioneering ‘Yuva Mithra’ initiative, the first of its kind in the country, is receiving significant acclaim. With 74 programmes already conducted, the initiative’s recognition by the UNDP is noteworthy,” he added.