Respect and compassion for wildlife are qualities that must be learned at an early age, if future generations are to become effective custodians of the natural world. But conveying these messages to children in rural Africa in a way that engages and convinces them is a constant conservation challenge. This was one of the problems faced by the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, until they came up with an innovative and inspiring solution.
Coaching Conservation is an environmental education programme with a difference. The conservation message is taught through the medium of sport, especially football. Strategies and techniques on the field are explained in terms of the roles and behaviours of wild animals in the field. The children’s natural enthusiasm for sport is harnessed to encourage them to learn about the wildlife around them. And as they learn, not facts and figures but characters and actions, they develop sympathy for the animals they study. So far the programme has reached nearly 18,000 children, and long-term studies have demonstrated a positive influence on attitudes, behaviour, empathy, values and self-worth.
Tusk funding has helped Coaching Conservation expand from its first trial activities to a broad programme running in two locations and now an online version. The proven positive impacts show what a worthwhile investment this has been, and how valuable its further expansion could be.
This ground-breaking outreach model can really change attitudes to wildlife and conservation. Continued support is needed to consolidate and extend its activities.