WildRoots Batwatch Programme (India)
The seven #NatureForAll strategies offer solutions to a worldwide problem of disconnection from nature. They have been developed based on recommendations received from the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress and the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress, and advice from #NatureForAll partners worldwide. They will continue to evolve over time. Not every strategy may be applicable in every situation, so our partners choose the one(s) that work best in their local context.
Our Primary Goal was to connect the school students (urban and rural) to the ‘Bats’ and generate awareness about the Ecological Importance of the Bats, the important role that they play in pollination and dispersal of seeds, and clear some misconceptions about Bats, in general.
Our main challenge was whether the educational institutions of the urban sector will be willing to let the students participate in a Conservation Education programme that involves a species which is shrouded in so many myths and misconceptions. In the Rural context, our challenge were to bring the students from the indigenous communities to our programmes, and to generate empathy towards the Bats, when they are used to killing them either for food, or as age old community practice.
What Strategies Contributed to your Success?
Strategy 1: Bring Children into Nature at an Early Age
The WildRoots Batwatch Programme involved the students of schools, spreading the awareness among them much before they were in the colleges or universities. The Programme provided opportunities to students and teachers primarily of more than 10 Educational Institutions and involved them in outdoor ‘Batwatch’ and various creative activities that generated in strong learning experiences. Learning beyond the books, observing the Bats in their natural roosts and understand them through observation constituted the main modules of the programme.
Strategy 2: Find and Share the Fun in Nature
Our Activity-based programme entitled “Roostwatch” based on 'observation, student research and conservation' was organized in Guwahati, Assam, India where the students of Sanskriti the Gurukul, Rani Anchalik High School and St. Stephens School observed the roosts of the Indian Flying Fox - or the Indian Fruit Bats around Panbazaar, Pani Tanki Area. Some of them were seeing Bats for the first time in their lives, which made the programme more interesting. The next Roostwatch was planned in the Limestone Caves of the State of Meghalaya, where the students got to observe the roosting behaviour of the Horse-Shoe Bats and learn about the connection that they have with the indigenous ‘Khasi’ community of the region.
Strategy 3: Use Urban Gateways to Nature
The WildRoots Batwatch Programme also aimed at building sustainable partnerships between Urban and Rural Schools. The true positive ethos of Conservation can only be spread and understood when the educational institutions of the State and Country are engaged to reach out to each other and build partnerships that embraced the diversity of culture, traditional and could be accepted in spite of varying economic backgrounds.
Positive Awareness and empathy toward Bats was the most prominent success of the Batwatch Programme. We were able to make the participants understand about the Ecological Importance of the Bats. The students of the Urban Sector were able to learn that – ‘Bats cannot suck the blood of humans from a distance’…one of the many myths and misconceptions that circle around the Bats. The students from the Rural Sector got to learn, why Bats should not be killed, and they went back to their parents in the villages and were able to spread the message about the Conservation of the Bats.
A lot of wonderful things can be done if we do not call ourselves as ‘experts’, but consider ourselves as ‘eager learners.’