Great Plains Conservation offers an educational and immensely enjoyable conservation camp to local schoolchildren every year. This year we hosted two groups of 20 students from Gudigwa village. Most of them are active members of the environmental club at their school and we want them to be ambassadors for the Botswanan wildlife and wilderness. They stay with us for 4 days and the fun begins when we pick them up from their village and begin game viewing on the way.
There is focus on a different environmental topic each day, such as the formation of the Okavango Delta, or the role of big cats and the big herbivores. We make sure that the kids understand the conservation messages and the importance of wildlife so that they can share their insights back at school and in their village.
It all starts with a game drive in the magnificent Selinda Reserve where we can show them incredible wildlife in a pristine ecosystem and teach them so many things. It may even be the first time that many of the children see some of these animals. Your first sight of a leopard can only fill you with awe.
It became evident though that most have seen elephants. They commonly pass through villages and can cause huge damage to crops or infrastructure. They’re dangerous as well and many of the children may have had bad experiences and see them only in a negative light. It’s important that we speak to them about their experiences and try and work out ways for people and elephants to live more comfortably together. We know it is possible – even if it is not always easy.
After the drive there is lunch and a rest – time to sit and take in the sounds and smells of the bush.
In the afternoon it is back to work – except it’s not really work. There are multiple discussions around wildlife, conservation, the challenges of living with wild animals and numerous other topics. It’s important to try to keep these sessions informal so that it doesn’t feel like a classroom. We want conservation to become a part of their lives – a part of their everyday thinking. We also want them to take in what they are hearing and encourage them to share their ideas with others so they will present to their peers in small groups. After the afternoon’s brain-stretching activities, it’s time to get some energy out and end the day with a sporting game.
Tomorrow there will be more lessons and more incredible things to see and hopefully a greater understanding and love for the African bush that these children can go and share with others.