Here’s a tale many of us might know. In 1969, John Rendall and Anthony Burke purchased a captive-bred lion cub from a department store in London, and named him Christian. Soon, with help from conservationist George Adamson, they released Christian into the wild in Africa. A year later, when Rendall and Burke decided to visit Christian in the wild, they probably had no expectations. But when Christian saw the pair, he leapt at them with utter joy, smothering them with his love. What’s more, the lion not only remembered his humans, but also introduced them to his pride, who accepted the two men willingly!
It’s no wonder the video that captured this reunion went viral online. Rarely do we get to witness the special bond we humans can share with the wild. While not all have an incredible tale to tell like Rendall and Burke, conservationists, writers and photographers do experience the wild more closely than many of us. This World Wildlife Day, Soulveda speaks to wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists about what keeps them passionate about their work.
For some, bonding with the wild is a calling. Wildlife conservationists live a life dedicated to saving creatures–big and small–finding deep satisfaction in what they do. It’s no easy feat conserving the wild though. A conservationist’s job is one of patience. It can be a long-drawn and many a time rather frustrating process. The intense work, extensive research, the several years of seemingly endless projects, and the time away from home can all seem a little too daunting for many. But a professional knows fully well that caring for wildlife is a long-term goal, whose results can take several years to fructify. And it’s exactly what Shashank Dalvi’s anecdote tells us.
In 2012, Shashank and a team of other wildlife conservationists and biologists headed to the Doyang Reservoir in Nagaland. They intended to find out the truth about the rumours they’d heard about amur falcons–small birds of prey–being hunted in the region. And what they found shocked them. “Every year, in a span of 10-12 days of migratory period, over one lakh amur falcons were being killed! So, we started our work by educating the locals through eco camps in 2013. From then until now, not a single amur falcon has been shot down in that region again,” Shashank says. The resounding success of this initiative has made it one of his most fruitful experiences in the field. Projects such as this one keep his passion for conservation growing.
In capturing moments and experiences they share with nature, conservationists show the world why wildlife matters. After all, they experience the wild more intimately than most of us.
Generally, when we observe the drive conservationists like Shashank have, we label it a ’cause’, as if there’s nothing they can get in return for doing the ‘noble deed’. Truth is, we are all a part of the ecosystem and whether or not we can see it, our lives are intricately intertwined with those of other life forms. Saving wildlife is as much about us as it is about the creatures we save, believes conservationist Gerry Martin. With ‘The Gerry Martin Project’, his constant aim has been to make people more aware of how wildlife and human survival are interlinked.
“It’s not just about conserving wildlife. It’s about the kind of world I want to live in,” says Gerry. “I want a healthier environment and I don’t want to be worried about polluted air or poison on my palate. For me, conserving wildlife is about me. Because it concerns human survival.” For Gerry, saving wild animals is all about helping maintain the ecosystem that we’re all a part of. And therein, lies his love for the work he does.
For some, capturing the beauty of nature and the wild can be a calling. While conservationists help save the wild, writers and wildlife photographers help bring their work to the spotlight. In capturing moments and experiences they share with nature, they show the world why wildlife matters. After all, they experience the wild more intimately than most of us. It’s how they manage to capture the wild in words and stills.
As a child, Bijoy Venugopal often enjoyed the jungle stories his mother and grandmother narrated to him. He read a lot of Gerald Durrell, Jim Corbett, and Kenneth Anderson. As he grew up and turned to travel writing for a profession, his fascination with wildlife seeped right into his writing. Today, as an enthusiast, he manages to find wildlife not only in the forests he travels to, but also in his immediate surroundings.
According to Bijoy, wildlife is all around us; we need only open our eyes to it. Says he, “Wildlife is not just about the animals in the forests. For me, urban ecology matters just as much. I take joy from my immediate surroundings–like, say, a moth in my balcony. The joy of discovery is not just in identifying a wild creature but more in understanding that we do share our space with wildlife every day.”
The one thing that commonly resonates from Shashank’s, Gerry’s and Bijoy’s experiences is that our lives are interconnected with wildlife in more ways than one. Be it a common moth or a rare butterfly, a domestic cat or a mountain lion, a pet goldfish or an oceanic whaler shark, an ordinary pigeon or a rare magpie, every creature on this earth exists in a delicate balance. Maintaining this balance is our responsibility, and those with love for wildlife strive to achieve just that. Every creature that walks this earth has the right to live and these lovers of wildlife make it their life’s mission to ensure this right is served.