Children taught to identify and count birds in Senegal
By Blandine Melis, 1 Feb 2017
Studies have shown that children learn to love and connect much more easily with nature than adults because they naturally explore and learn through social engagements.
In an effort to get children interested in bird conservation and provide practical and sustainable solutions that will benefit nature and people in the future, BirdLife International experts and other conservation stakeholders in Senegal have given kids the opportunity to develop a lasting interest in bird science.
On 15 January 2017, during events marking the International Waterbird Count Day in Senegal, ornithologists invited 16 students to participate and connect with nature. The children were selected from four schools in the Kalissaye Ornithological Nature Reserve in southern Senegal and they accompanied rangers to the field where they identified and counted birds in the Casamance area.
“The young people, accompanied by a Life and Earth Science teacher from Hillol Middle School were quick to grasp the skills and became ‘budding scientists’. They learned very quickly how to use binoculars, recognize criteria of bird identification and complete an observation collection protocol adapted to their capacity,” explained Blandine Mélis, BirdLife’s Conservation and Migratory Birds (CMB) Project Communications Officer for West Africa.
The children benefitted from the expertise of members of a potential BirdLife partner organisation in Senegal, the Association Nature-Communautés Développement supported by BirdLife’s CMB team in West Africa.
After the bird count exercise on the boat, a drawing competition took place on the beach where the children made very creative and high quality drawings inspired by their curiosity.
Through the CMB project, BirdLife international has strengthened networks and promoted the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats along the west coast of Africa. The Casamance event was part of a bigger environmental education program within the project, expected to last for a period of about two years in the protected site.
The BirdLife CMB project partnership with the Association Nature-Communautés Développement, has committed to facilitate the discovery of the territory in the Kalissaye Reserve and ensure that young people are properly involved in the management of the Reserve.
The project has developed a sustainable plan to ensure that these young people participate in several other practical activities in the future. These activities will include the “I don’t like garbage day”, which is a day set aside for waste collection to keep the environment clean. The children will also take part in reforestation activities and establish tree nurseries, as well as other actions that promote the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats along the west coast of Africa.
Wildlife clubs will also be created in schools outside the protected area to raise awareness and educate many more children on the importance of conserving birds and their habitats. Through these clubs, the school children will be encouraged to compete with their mates in different domains that can boost their curiosity and make them more resourceful. These competitions will guide the children to draw, write poems, sing and develop short sketches for conservation of nature and biodiversity, and protection of the ecosystem services.