Children Crocodile Festival, a community-based conservation initiative, was held on 20th August 2019 at Malataj Village of Anand District, Gujarat by the Voluntary Nature Conservancy (VNC). Many villages in the districts of Anand and Kheda in Gujarat State boast crocodile populations, making this a unique landscape where people and crocodile live alongside. What is interesting here is that they co-exist with each other very harmoniously, a situation rarely seen elsewhere.
The region boasts of approximately 270 crocodiles. VNC has been working for the conservation of mugger crocodiles through research, awareness and community engagement for the past seven years. They firmly believe that there can be no conservation without the involvement of the community and through working directly with them, VNC is attempting to create a sustainable conservation model which can be replicated elsewhere in the world.
This event that was visualized and organized under VNC’s Crocodile Conservation Project and was supported by the Malataj Gram Panchayat (Malataj Village Authority). Malataj was a prime location for the event this time because of the significant crocodile population it hosts and the positive attitude villagers have towards crocodiles.
The festival involved more than 100 school children of class VI to IX (11 to 14-year old) from 10 surrounding villages having substantial crocodile populations. It was a full day community-based conservation event, full of fun and games aimed to encourage the local community living alongside crocodiles in this region to celebrate the harmony they share with crocodiles. The day was filled with specifically designed sport and games like ‘Crocs & Ladders’, ‘Crocs Eggs,; ‘Crocodile Walk’, Crocs, Burrow and Earthquake; as well as elocution and art competitions and theatre, all to encourage the children to become future custodians of the crocodile conservation.
The children took home prizes for the fun games and competitions that they won and each child was gifted geometry boxes and badges which said ‘Maru Gam, Mara Mugger’ (My Village, My Crocodiles) on them which is VNC’s official slogan for this festival.
VNC is planning to make this festival an annual feature and an event that the community looks forward to. This initiative to involve the future generations in the conservation of crocodiles has long-reaching implications in increasing awareness and enthusiasm in conserving this primitive reptile in this human-dominated landscape.
– Written by Shibani Dam with inputs from Anirudh Vasava