Lonely Conservationists

Nishand (The Journey of a Wildlife Enthusiast)

Written by Nishand Venugopal

It all started with my interest in photography. I love taking photographs of wildlife and nature. But I didn’t want this passion to be restricted to just being a hobby. I felt I can do much more.

I was born in an era that saw the explosion of technology. The pace at which technology has developed has been so fast, but thankfully I was able to keep up with it. Born in 1979 and known as the Xennials who precede the Millennials, our generation has seen an analogue life in our childhood which turned into digital mode when we reached adulthood. This also means that we have seen how the Earth has changed during all these years—the good and the bad.

A major part of what constitutes as ‘the bad’ is occupied by the devastation caused to our environment. Our cities are highly polluted, our green spaces are being taken over by the real estate industry and the natural spaces inhabited by animals and birds are in serious danger of being destroyed. We have forgotten how important it is to preserve nature. Many of us are not even aware of the blessings bestowed by nature. I want nature to be preserved so that the coming generations too can enjoy the benefits of it.

And that is why I believe it is my duty too to serve the cause of conservation in my own way, through creating awareness and using the power of social media for it. As Dr. Jane Goodall wrote, ‘What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.’

My duty as a wildlife enthusiast is to learn about the value of biodiversity in India. That means travelling and reading about it. I am grateful that there are a lot of books that throw light on this rich subject. The more I read, the more interested I became to share information with the world, especially with kids. Kids tend to naturally have a bond with nature – they love to play in mud and water. We have experienced and witnessed this quite commonly in our childhood but today most of the children are hooked to gadgets and prefer to remain indoors. The air pollution in Delhi is quite high; I always feel anxious whenever my kid plays outdoors, wondering what noxious gasses would affect her. The worryingly high level of air pollution has pushed people to think and work towards preserving nature. To add my bit to such efforts, I volunteered with WWF India for their movie making project and then their program of taking kids on nature trails. I am also writing for a children’s newsletter — my photographs are also helping in sharing my thoughts with them.

I have travelled through various terrains in India – from Ladakh in the Himalayas to the coast of Odisha – to see and experience the flora and fauna that grow there. Only when you see nature and wildlife in their original form, will you learn to respect them. There’s a story in each photo I take and every person I meet during these journeys, and these are what I share through my social media channels.

When you are with nature, you get to learn from other species too. I witnessed the virtue of the idea, ‘keep on trying till you succeed’, from the tiny Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings on Odisha’s coastline. They move towards the sea but are thrown back into the beach umpteen times by the waves, and yet they don’t give up. They work hard and finally reach the safety of the water. The sight itself was a revelation to me. It was a valuable lesson taught by nature to me – the one who had taken a leap of faith to help it.

For the past year, after leaving my job I have been observing and documenting conservation works happening in India. I have great respect for young wildlife biologists and conservationists who are working hard to preserve the precious flora and fauna of India. I made up my mind to ensure their efforts reach a wider audience and let people know that there is something of worth left to love and care for. From discussing and volunteering with caretakers of sloth bears and elephants in Wildlife SOS care facilities, to learning from the researchers of Wildlife Institute of India about the latest techniques they use in conservation and forest management, I have experienced a huge learning curve. I got to know how people who live near the forest area try to mitigate human-animal conflict. I also got to know about and meet members of an organisation named ‘Kumaon Matti’ which is trying to face such conflicts with a positive attitude. I am glad there are a lot of people who are working round the clock to preserve the rich natural resources of India. Generating interest in biodiversity and the importance of it in providing us basic necessities of life like clean air, water and healthy food is my mission. People need to know that all is not lost but that yes, everyone has to do their bit as time is ticking. It is now or never, but sharing stories of hope will definitely inspire more people to work towards saving nature. A healthy nation needs to preserve its natural resources. That is our real wealth and the legacy that we need to pass on to our future generation. Hope is still there and I am optimistic that a change in our approach is possible and things can be turned around to make Earth a better place.

For more of Nishand, check out his Instagram @nishandvenugopal

Photo by: Divyoum Chahl


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