‘Yuva Mithra’ offers free safari at Bandipur for school children
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‘Yuva Mithra’ offers free safari at Bandipur for school children

January 2, 2023

Catching them young for conservation efforts

Mysuru: If you are a student and wish to go on an ‘into the wild’ trip at Bandipur Tiger Reserve, then here’s your chance. ‘Yuva Mithra’ offers a free jungle safari for school children initially in Gundlupet and H.D. Kote along with the areas that come under the limits of Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

Through this initiative, over 10,000 students from Government Schools can get a chance to explore the wilderness and learn about animal-human co-existence from experts and Forest Department officers. With an abundant wildlife population, the Tiger Reserve has a lot to offer.

The initiative has been announced to commemorate the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Project Tiger in Bandipur. Karnataka’s first Project Tiger was implemented in Bandipur on Nov. 16, 1973 and 50 years have been successfully completed. When Project Tiger was launched, there were just 12 tigers in Bandipur and now the Tiger Reserve has over 170 big cats.

Inauguration tomorrow

The year-long ‘Yuva Mithra’ in 2023 will be inaugurated on Jan. 3 at 10 am by Union Minister for Forests Bhupendra Yadav in the presence of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) representatives. Minister Yadav will be a part of the 22nd NTCA meeting at Bandipur on Jan. 2 and Jan. 3.

The Minister will also inaugurate a kiosk displaying and selling handicraft items made by forest-dwelling communities using lantana, the invasive weed inside the forest.

In its efforts to control the growth of the weed and to empower the tribal communities on the fringes of the Tiger Reserve with additional income, the Forest Department is encouraging the mass manufacture of handicrafts and decorative items with the weed after extracting them from the forests.

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Five-day-a-week safari

Under ‘Yuva Mithra’, students will be taken on safaris five days a week and two buses have been specially purchased for this with funding from Chamarajanagar District Administration. Every day, 60 students will get to travel in these buses and after the safari, there will be awareness and sensitisation programmes on forests, environment and wildlife conservation for them and they will interact with wildlife experts and Forest Department staff.

According to Bandipur Project Tiger Director Ramesh Kumar, as part of the initiative, workshops will be conducted and students will be inducted as eco-volunteers in order to catch them young. “Though many free awareness safaris have been conducted at other Tiger Reserves in the past, this is the first time, a year-long outreach programme has been charted out on such a large scale,” he said.

Initially, the programme will run for three years and aims to cover the over 140 villages around Bandipur and in H.D. Kote that have more than 350 Government Schools. Notably, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has appreciated the initiative.

Turning children into stakeholders

“Once the students take the safari and participate in the awareness programmes and workshops, they will be issued a card and will be inducted as eco-volunteers. We can expect a new generation of environmentally-aware youths and conservationists as such programmes will give a sense of ownership to the children and they can relate to issues of wildlife and environment,” the Director added.

“We particularly chose Government Schools around Bandipur. Though  the schools are located around the forest area, children do not get a chance to explore wildlife and greenery. Moreover, these children cannot afford to go on a safari as it is expensive. Student participants will be provided free lunch on the safari days. The initiative will help reduce human-animal conflict and we can gain the trust of the villagers,” Ramesh Kumar added.

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The year-long ‘Yuva Mithra’ in 2023 will be inaugurated tomorrow at 10 am by Union Minister for Forests Bhupendra Yadav in the presence of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) representatives.

By M.T. Yogesh Kumar

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