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электронный журнал "Новые исследования Тувы"

The first children's snow leopard festival took place in Tuva

The first children's snow leopard festival took place in TuvaOn the initiative and with the support of the WWF of the "Ubsunur depression" nature preserve, more than five hundred schoolchildren and teachers became the participants of a beautiful holiday, dedicated to the irbis.

On 21-24 April, schoolchildren and teachers of the Erzin, Bai-Taiga and Mongun-Taiga kozhuuns (districts) - the main areas of irbis habitat - became the participants of a festival "Day of the snow leopard".

The holiday devoted to the preservation of the exceptionally rare species of animal is a unique event in Siberia. The closest region where a similar event takes place is in Primorie (Maritime Pacific region), which is the habitat of very rare Far East leopard and the Amur tiger. In April of this year, Tuva opened the season of this "feline" holiday for the first time.

The main goal of this festival is to bring up in children a respectful and caring attitude towards this predator, as to a treasure of Tuva. Involvement of children - and adults through them - in nature protection - is an effective instrument proved in many situations.

Long before the main celebrations,, children began to prepare their contest assignments. The main event - a one-day "Day of the snow leopard" took place in the villages - the holiday hosts in each of the three kozhuuns: Erzin, Shui, and Mugur-Aksy. The first festival  was very successful - practically every school prepared a theatrical performance, dances, songs, poems, stories, and children's drawings - all of that dedicated to the Master of the Mountains - irbis. Considering the remoteness and inaccessibility of these kozhuuns, the specialists from the nature preserve and WWF had to set up a real vehicular marathon to get to all the districts on time, to help set up the holiday and give awards to the winners.

The Erzin middle school surprised everyone with their song about the irbis, and with costume dances. The performers had to do a repeat performance several times. The Shui school's legend about a young man who wanted to marry a girl, but her father that he would give her to him only if he brings a snow leopard skin also received much applause. The young man could not bring himself to kill the beautiful animal and left for the mountains, himself turning into an irbis. The main hero was not only an excellent actor, but he also pleased the guests with his throat-singing.

The first children's snow leopard festival took place in TuvaIn Bai-Taiga, kids from the most remote village - Kara-Khol - became real heroes. Starting at three in the morning, the schoolchildren came on a trip of 160 kilometers through a terrain without roads to get to the festival in the morning,  to find the strength to perform, and event o show the best theatrical performance - a beautiful costume show with entertaining directing inventions, for example, the role of  stage decorations was taken by a screen with projections of landscapes. This was a story about a Tuvan who found tiger cubs, snow leopard, manul cat and domestic cat kittens in the mountains, and then brought them up as his own children. The man taught them that it is not allowed to harm living creatures. But when they grew up, the wild animals could not stay away from hunting. Deciding not to upset their "father" with such behavior, the cats left home and decided to go to the mountains; only the small and helpless domestic cat stayed with people, being afraid to live in the forest.

In Mongun-Taiga kozhuun, children of sheep herders took part in the festival; they do not know irbis just from hearsay - they all have heard and even seen the snow leopard personally. In the contest of scientific works about the snow leopard, a seventh-grader from Mugur-Aksy brought up an interesting fact told him by his grandfather, who described an irbis attack. Specialists collect these almost-legendary histories like precious stones. How much truth they hold, and how much of it is imagination is impossible to say, but real events of meeting an irbis can tell a lot about the life of this predator and the people's attitude towards him. Kids from the second middle school from Mugur-Aksy village showed a real thriller,  in which poachers who looked like Colombian commandoes killed a female snow leopard with a single gunshot, orphaning two helpless kittens, evoking tender emotions in the entire spectator hall.

"We should be proud that irbis lives in our mountains!" proclaims a special booklet prepared by the organizers of the festival which was given to all the participants together with journals "The Country of the Snow Leopard", where every page has some interesting information about the nature in Tuva and about the snow leopard, which the kids will look at throughout the whole year.

It is not surprising that the "Day of the Snow Leopard" turned out different in each of the kozhuuns, despite the same contest design. And not everybody was well prepared: the snow leopard dances often looked like snow leopards in a disco, and some children, reading the scientific works, had trouble pronouncing "the significance of local groupings". On the other hand, we have never before seen a yogi in the image of the irbis as in the performance of Kara-Khol school, and we have never before heard  folk "chastushkas" (short humorous songs) about the irbis.  Te most important is that it all went right from the heart, and the successful future of the snow leopard in Tuva depends precisely on these good, sincere children.

Beside presents, the festival winners received the chance to participate in the July children's camp of the "Ubsunur depression" preserve and WWF  on the Kara-Khol lake, where the "irbis" theme is predominant.

WWF and the preserve plan to make this festival a yearly event, but the main task is to initiate a great snow leopard holiday in Kyzyl, similar to the Day of the Tiger in Vladivostok, which has long been one of the favorite family events in this city of the  Primorie region.

Tatiana Ivanitskaya, translated by Heda Jindrak
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