Wildlife conservation, for citizens. How a WII course is changing the way I think of conservationists.

A year ago I realized I want to spend the rest of life working for wildlife conservation. It wasn’t a midlife crisis moment. On the contrary, what should have been obvious all along dawned on me rather slowly.

Jackals in the wild
Jackals in the wild

How does one begin to live the dream?

My new wannabe goal lacks the prerequisite academic backing. I don’t know anyone influential enough to open doors for me. Nor am I a donor. Scientific papers are mostly beyond my realm of understanding. I don’t recognize every other bird or ungulate. What I do know is that it’s not too late.

I want to get up close and personal with wildlife. Go out on field trips. Be involved. Inspire. Document. Help a researcher. Assist a vet. Be better informed. Tell the world. Invest in serious skills. Attempt to bridge that gap between scientists and citizens. Do what needs to be done 101%. For the rest of my life!

Goral fawn
Goral fawn

A friend, also a WII alumnus, happened to mention Wildlife Institute of India’s IV course on Wildlife Conservation for Wildlife Enthusiasts. It’s exactly what I was looking for. They hadn’t put in an age limit, so I applied. I was selected and it was everything I hoped it to be. And more. The ten-day course was divided into lecture-style classes and a field trek/trip into a core forest area.

Indispensable. Mules make it all possible.
Indispensable. Mules make it all possible.

A second revelation

I hate stereotyping but in startling contrast to the ‘government babus’ in my head, WII staff were a breath of fresh air. I interacted with charismatic and enterprising individuals from various departments. Their passion is admirable, their involvement, inspiring and their generosity in sharing, genuine.

The path of an environmentalist, as you and I know, is not an easy one. A few of our mentors joined WII as students and chose never to leave. 15-20 years on, these research scientists continue to battle on at great personal cost. Graciously, they make time to motivate ordinary people like myself. It’s humbling.

An eagle keeping watch
An eagle keeping watch

“When someone has spent decades devoted to observing certain creatures, their observations are not to be taken lightly.”-Carl Safina 

I agree. If there’s one way to learn, it’s to walk with the experts. As a trekker, the highlight of the course for me was visiting core forest areas on foot. After a few days in the field with Dr. R Suresh Kumar and Dr. Lakshminarayana—both storehouses of information—my respect for conservationists has risen several-fold.

It’s one thing to learn in the classroom about how elephants communicate. It’s another, to be startled awake by trumpeting a few yards away from where you lie, trapped in a flimsy sleeping bag.

Fresh prints are evidence of high traffic in the forests.
Fresh prints are evidence of high traffic in the forests.

 

Spotted bill ducks at the WII campus.
Spotted bill ducks at the WII campus.

This course is undoubtedly a significant one. The WII campus, tucked away in a green haven, hosts a great number of wild inhabitants. I am honestly astounded by WII’s collective wealth of expertise and by the impact they’re making, unknown to the rest of the world. I’m sure my course mates echo my sentiments. We’re a mixed bunch of adults from diverse professional backgrounds, different states, and varying ages. We were a rather enthusiastic and animated bunch: absorbing, theorizing, questioning and arguing. I can now say with conviction that there are 14 more Indian citizens in this world, who are better informed, convinced, and committed to saving our natural wealth.

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Scope of conservation lectures
Biogeography of India/History of Indian Natural History/Achievements/Challenges and opportunities in wildlife conservation /Wildlife of Himalayas: conservation through science/ Large carnivore conservation in India/Saving Tigers in a human-dominated landscape/Science and management of tiger reintroduction/ Elephant conservation challenges/ Wetland conservation in India/Saving our sea turtles/ turtle trade/ Fish conservation in India/Dealing with wildlife crimes/A need for developing wildlife forensics/ Managing wild animals in distress/ Dealing with snakes, venomous and non-venomous in India/ Introduction to classic natural history books.
And that’s the tip of the iceberg.

If you’d like to read more of my blog posts:

http://bit.ly/reserveclosetohome

http://bit.ly/HimalayanWolves

http://bit.ly/8LifeSkillsFromABird

http://bit.ly/WildernessFirstAidMussoorie

Do visit me on Instagram @lalithainsta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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