Home » Championing Wildlife Conservation: An Interview with Wildlife SOS

Championing Wildlife Conservation: An Interview with Wildlife SOS

by In-house Editor
  1. What are some of the most pressing issues facing wildlife and animals in India today, and how does Wildlife SOS address these challenges?

There is a lack of awareness and tolerance in people regarding animals, and this leads to man animal conflict. One of the biggest challenges is to convince people, and evoke compassion and kindness toward animals. The next major issue is the loss and fragmentation of natural habitats due to human encroachment and infrastructure building. As a result, more animals seem to appear in urban landscapes. This escalates conflict situations with wild animals, mostly due to lack of awareness about this complex issue. Poaching for illegal wildlife trade is another huge threat to wildlife populations globally. This can be due to various factors such as luxury products, keeping exotic animals as pets and for unscientific medicinal uses. Another major predicament for the field of wildlife conservation is to find the financial resources to support meaningful initiatives, and the associated human resource to facilitate these initiatives.

2. Could you share some success stories or notable achievements of Wildlife SOS in rescuing and rehabilitating wild animals?

One of the biggest success stories is with the Kalandar community, where we rescued over 620 sloth bears, helped reform over 3,000 families and sent over 11,000 children to school so that they did not have to exploit sloth bears anymore. Today the same community has settled in alternative livelihood and they no longer think about exploitation of wild animals for supporting their families.

With the establishment of the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre (ECCC) and India’s first Elephant Hospital in Mathura, Wildlife SOS cares for over 30 elephants, including an injured female calf who was rescued from a train accident. 

We run and manage the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre in Maharashtra – established in 2007 – in collaboration with the forest department, caring for over 30 leopards. We also actively rescue leopards from conflict scenarios and rescue various wild animals from the threat of open wells in Maharashtra. The biggest achievement for leopard conservation in this landscape is that Wildlife SOS has reunited 110 leopard cubs since 2007, in partnership with the Maharashtra Forest Department.

3. How does Wildlife SOS collaborate with government agencies, local communities, and other organizations to achieve its conservation goals? Share some ongoing projects or initiatives Wildlife SOS is currently involved in, and their impact on wildlife and animal welfare?

As mentioned earlier, there are several challenges to wildlife conservation. Wildlife SOS is involved in multiple initiatives to address and resolve these issues. Firstly, to combat the threat of open wells to wild animals in the Junnar landscape, Wildlife SOS is carrying out the Open Wells Conservation project in Maharashtra. Various groups, including the villagers and the state forest department are involved in the endeavour. Under the project, we have already covered 14 open wells in the state out of the 40 open wells planned to be covered. 

In partnership with the various state forest departments, Wildlife SOS is involved in conservation of species and their habitats. The organisation is carrying out radio-collaring projects on Himalayan brown bears, sloth bears and elephants.

In Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Bhopal, Wildlife SOS works toward rescuing, treating and rehabilitating tigers.

4. What are some of the innovative approaches or techniques Wildlife SOS employs in wildlife rescue, rehabilitation, and conservation efforts?

Under the aegis of the J&K Wildlife Protection department, a Himalayan brown bear radio-collaring project is being implemented in Kashmir to understand the anthropogenic pressures on the species, their behaviour and strategies for human-bear conflict mitigation within the region.

By joining hands with the Karnataka Forest Department, Wildlife SOS is implementing a sloth bear radio-collaring project to understand their behaviour, population density, and causes of human-bear conflict for the species using radio-collaring technique. 

With the help of the Chhattisgarh Forest Department, we are also working with villagers and farmers to mitigate human-elephant conflict in the state. This is done after setting up early warning alert systems by researching elephant herd movement. As part of this initiative, the combined team has employed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones to monitor and track the movement of elephant herds in the wild.

5. How does Wildlife SOS raise awareness about wildlife conservation, animal welfare, and related issues?

Every rescue we conduct is an opportunity to educate people and build mass awareness. It is important for people to understand the intrinsic value that every animal plays in every ecosystem. They are often unaware of how a frog, a snake or even a butterfly can indicate the health of our surrounding environment. Their very presence in any ecosystem is a reflection of that ecosystem’s health.

At our leopard rescue centre in Junnar, Maharashtra, we work with the local communities such as farmers and villagers to train and sensitise them about leopard avoidance behaviour. This minimises negative interaction between leopards and humans. The local communities understand the ecological role played by leopards and we make them realise that their forefathers farmed here while coexisting peacefully with leopards. Through this, we have been able to build tolerance in the local communities toward leopards.

We also worked for 20 years with Delhi police to sensitise policemen and the police control room. We even get calls from VIP locations if a snake or a bird is seen in distress. So people now inform our helpline instead of taking matters in their own hands. It is a result of our efforts to engage with citizens in raising awareness.

We run active outreach programs throughout the country and conduct awareness sessions with schools, colleges and even corporate offices.

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