This year, TigerScouts, the little protectors of our motherly Sundarbans, have obtained excellent results with high GPAs in Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exam. These little heroes have secured tremendous results from the remote villages of the Sundarbans with many limitations in their day to day life. This year nine TigerScouts participated in the SSC examination; among them, three got the highest GPA (GPA 5.00/Grade A+), and all but one passed with flying colors.
TigerScouts are the students from different schools adjacent to the Sundarbans, who voluntarily engaged themselves in tiger conservation. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Government of Bangladesh came together to protect tigers in Bangladesh Sundarbans through USAID's Bagh Activity. Under the leadership of Bangladesh Forest Department, WildTeam with its partners implemented USAID's Bagh Activity from 2014 to 2018. TigerScouts, a unique initiative, was formed during USAID's Bagh Activity and has begun its journey with 40 students in 2016. The formation of TigerScouts is one of many success stories of USAID'S Bagh Activity. They were formed following the philosophy and principles of Bangladesh Scouts. They have sincere motivation for conserving wildlife, have true volunteerism and leadership qualities in them. Their exam results show how talented and well organized they are.
TigerScouts have been doing well since their inception, and are now supported by IUCN-KFW funded "Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme (ITHCP)", implemented by WildTeam. Protecting the tiger habitats and supporting the sustainable socio-economic development of the local communities are the aims of this Program.
The main objective of TigerScouts is to build an environmentally conscious future generation with a vision to protect tigers. They act as Tiger Ambassadors in their schools by engaging other students in tiger conservation. They work for the conservation and protection of Sundarbans and tigers through arranging student forums, awareness raising events, social activities and cultural events. To achieve their goals, TigerScouts participate in scout camps, organised by WildTeam, periodically. In these camps, they could interact with each other, share their experiences, renew their pledges and commitments to conserve tigers and the Sundarbans. They promise to become a better human so that others around them benefit from them.
TigerScouts' key activities include raising awareness among students, their families and local communities about the protection of tigers in the Sundarbans, tree plantation, protecting local biodiversity, cleanliness campaign, special environmental days celebration, participating in educational camps, joining training programmes, etc. They join in different social activities, and wherever possible talk about sustainable resource collection, discourage local people about deer meat consumption, illegal wood collection, illegal fishing including poison-fishing.
Last year TigerScouts visited Indian Sundarbans and Delhi, at the invitation of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), under IUCN-KFW's ITHCP. They had the opportunity to interact with the youths and local communities of the Indian Sundarbans in many schools. They shared their experiences and showcased how youth engagement is important to bring changes to society. The Indian youths also told what they have been doing, and cordially welcomed the ideas of TigerScouts. The local leaders, while talking to media, appreciated the activities of TigerScouts, and wanted to replicate this initiative in Indian Sundarbans.
On 10th September 2019, a TigerScout in his speech expressed his strong determination for tiger conservation at an International Conference on Sustainability Education in New Delhi, which was hugely appreciated by international audiences. The TigerScouts also attended a trans-boundary awareness camp conducted for the local inhabitants of border areas, close to the Sundarbans.
On 2 January 2020, the honorable British High Commissioner (acting), Mr Kanbar Hossein Bor, visited WildTeam Conservation Biology Centre (WCBC) at Joymoni, Chandpai, Mongla, adjacent to the Sundarbans, and met with TigerScouts. TigerScouts had the opportunity to explain what they have been doing for tiger conservation in the area since their inception. Mr Bor was very pleased to know about such a noble initiative and wished its prosperous future.
On 28 January, 2020, U.S. Ambassador H.E. Mr Earl R. Miller, Ms Michelle Renee Adelman, and USAID Mission Director, Mr Derrick S. Brown, visited WildTeam Conservation Biology Centre (WCBC) in the Sundarbans. This was to see WildTeam's post Bagh activities and to meet with WildTeam members, Village Tiger Response Team (VTRT), TigerScouts, BaghBandhus (tiger ambassadors), and Forest Tiger Response Team (FTRT). The dignitaries met with the TigerScouts at a Sundarbans Education Centre (SEC) in a local school. SEC is also an initiative of USAID's Bagh Activity, a biodiversity conservation knowledge hub for the TigerScouts and other students; now it is functional in five schools in all the four ranges in the Sundarbans.
TigerScouts had a wonderful time with the dignitaries and were deeply encouraged. The dignitaries were amazed to know how these young boys and girls were engaged in changing the game for nature, how they were stopping many illegal activities including deer meat consumption, poison fishing, logging, in their families and neighborhoods, how brave they were to tell their family members and others not to kill tigers as they believe - but for tigers, the Sundarbans would perish. They strongly believe that tigers are the natural protectors of the Sundarbans, and Sundarbans act as a shield during natural disasters. They also expressed their desire to join the Global Tiger Initiative by meeting with those American youths who have deep passion for tiger conservation. They wanted to meet with those young US 'tigers' right inside the Sundarbans, the last stronghold of Bengal tigers.
TigerScouts are our future conservation leaders. They have already established their footprints in the community.
Congratulations, TigerScouts, for your outstanding results. You are the inspiration to the others and are ideals for the newcomers. WildTeam team stands by you in all your future endeavors. Thanks for being with us for so long - we are fortunate to be able to work with you.
Meherun Niger Sultana is a programme officer of WildTeam (on leave), now doing PhD in Japan Suraiya Islam is an intern at WildTeam
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