Raising interest for 'unloved / forgotten' wildlife is not an easy feat. Larger mammals such as lions, elephants and giraffes often draw the interest of the public, leaving less time and opportunity for other species to be included in educational programs. It is important to remember that every part of our environment is interlinked and if one link is broken it will have a catastrophic effect somewhere in the future. A good example is the present global nCOV2 pandemic.
The Best Spotter Competition for the children of PAAZA Junior Conservation Club (PJCC) intends to change this focus by encouraging the new generation to place their interest in smaller wildlife, such as insects and arachnids.
For this competition, a Whatsapp group was created in order to link all the children's families together. Children had to identify small animals in their houses or their gardens and post pictures on the group. Guidance was provided in a little booklet prepared by the PAAZA office especially for this purpose. This booklet is available for free on the PAAZA mobile app.
Furthermore, the Whatsapp group was a formidable help for all wild animal emergencies, a means to share information and give directions for best animal care and welfare in times of need. A number of small animals were saved through this channel.
The Best Spotter competition started October 2019 and carried on during the whole lockdown period and afterwards. At this occasion, it provided a welcome distraction from the non-ending information regarding the nCOV2 pandemic. Children and families were also given activity ideas promoting recycling and re-using of materials at home. (These activity cards are available for download on PAAZA web and mobile app.)
Additionally, the Best Spotter group was a way to maintain a form of social interaction and ease the physical separation ordered by the health and sanitation instances during lockdown. Staying connected with others during a quarantine period is considered one of the keys to preserving mental health.
After almost a year of trying to identify the small wildlife around them, PJCC children have gained an incredible knowledge about insects and arachnids. Their naturalist skills have improved tremendously, and their interest for little critters has shown in the form of numerous questions throughout the competition. What started as just "log what have you seen" turned into incredible interactive exchanges between the children and the PAAZA Executive office Scientist, Sophie. The childrens enquiring minds kept her on her toes 😊
It is clear that all the participating children and families have learnt a new respect for their gardens' wildlife, and it is heartwarming to know that the future generation of conservationists is already prepared to raise their voices for Nature.
With the move to Level 1 restrictions, beach clean-ups and outdoor activities have resumed which has brought relief and renewed energy to both the children and parents. PAAZA has also developed a whole new ‘competition’ (based on feed-back from the children) for 2021 which is sure to reinforce the enthusiasm of the children and their support crew, the parents 😊
More information about PJCC can be found on the PAAZA mobile app as well as at: http://www.zoosafrica.com/pjcc.html
Some of the activities and innovations by PJCC members during lockdown: