STEWARDS is a landmark conservation program seamlessly combining science, conservation, and education. Our program takes local Nepal school kids into the mountains – into the home of Snow Leopards – with scientists and teachers for an extended-stay learning experience. The kids perform meaningful scientific studies under the careful guidance of world renowned wildlife biologists; collecting data, setting up remote trail cameras – and studying predator and prey, geology, vegetation, and much more. Day in and day out, the kids are sleeping, eating, breathing, moving in the wild outdoors – absorbing all facets of the high mountain environment. Curriculum includes endangered species education, apex predator lessons, climate change, environmental stewardship, etc. By teaching the kids, and reaching them through the mediums of science, art, and adventure; we touch their minds, hearts, and souls. Our goal is to create very real, very inspired stewards of the total ecosystem. By using the Snow Leopard as a vehicle for learning, we help instill in the children a deep understanding of why it is important to help protect the environment that is not only a home for Snow Leopards, but for the kids themselves. The stewardship ethic filters up and down generations. Once the kids return home from the STEWARDS experience, the younger kids want to learn more, while the adults begin to take pride in what their children are doing and in turn become more engaged in the idea of conservation. The end result is the creation of social corridors of belief and understanding. Corridors where it is safe for endangered species to exist in a vibrant ecosystem protected by both science and cultural awareness. And…This program is truly community based.
The program includes:
- In class lessons during the school year for all students, in schools throughout the region where the STEWARDS program is active.
- Education programs for herders that teach practices for reducing loss of livestock from Snow Leopard predatation, offering additional opportunities for biologists, students, and herders to work hand in hand.
In field data collection:
- DNA sampling of Snow Leopard scat
- Transect studies of vegetation samples
- Prey species density
- Snow Leopard identification via camera traps
- STEWARDS touches on other important issues such as girls education, global citizenship, community bonds, and cultural heritage.
- A by product of this program is a comprehensive vegetation database providing an in-depth information bank on the effects climate change is having in one of the most sensitive regions of the world.