Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates — Based on a decision by the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC) Board of Directors to expand the educational conservation program to countries where the Fund operates its overseas centers, the IFHC launched its first pilot creative short story competition for rural school children in Shayan, Kazakhstan, where the Sheikh Khalifa Houbara Breeding Centre – Kazakhstan is located. The competition is designed to encourage the youth to love nature and become conservationists, while boosting IFHC’s relation with the local community; an effort that aligns with the Fund’s objective to provide socio-economic support to the countries where it operates.
The key theme of the competition, “Challenges and Solutions in Biodiversity Conservation”, was highlighted in 40 creative illustrated short stories about endangered native species, from participants of the various surrounding schools. 15 stories were shortlisted and published in a book in Kazakh and Russian.
Organized by the Sheikh Khalifa Houbara Breeding Centre in Kazakhstan (SKHBC-KZ), the prestigious ceremony was attended by key Kazakh officials and VIPs from the Shayan region, with active participation from Reneco International Wildlife Consultants’ employees, and the full support from the United Arab Emirates embassy in Astana, which provided all facilities to the work team. Following a welcome speech from IFHC Director General and teachers from participating schools, awards were delivered on a background of traditional music and pre-recorded short interviews with the winners. The event concluded with a small concert featuring local folk bands.
Commenting on the unique event, Mohammed Saleh Hasan Al Baidani, Director General at the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC), said: “Outreach and communication are integral to our work. Educating the youth about protecting nature and wildlife species is key to ensuring the future of our global environment. After successfully working with schools in the UAE over the past few years, we are now bringing our educational outreach program to Kazakhstan. We were delighted with the overwhelming response from students who enthusiastically took part in the short story competition and carried out extensive research to identify endangered native species. The different characters featured in their stories included the red wolf, the snow leopard, the saiga antelope, the argali mountain sheep and of course the bustard, an emblematic species in both our countries. This event was highly successful and garnered positive feedback from both teachers and students. We are encouraged to know that our future youth generation is eager to support our work, and we hope that some will become advocates for nature protection and conservation of heritage and wildlife in the future.”
The IFHC delegation, led by the Director General, included Ms. Hamda Al Ameri from the Education Department; Mr. Ali Al Shamsi and Ms. Olga Tanasevych, Comms Specialist at the IFHC. Mr. Mohammed Saleh Al Baidani, IFHC Director General, expressed his thanks to the UAE Embassy in Kazakhstan, and to local officials who attended the ceremony, along with school principals, teachers, participating students, Reneco International Wildlife Consultants’ management, and all those who contributed to the success of the ceremony.