World Wildlife Week is celebrated in the first week of October. It is an annual event to make us stop awhile and think about wildlife and how we can conserve it.

Do you take time off school work and watching television to think about the future of India’s wildlife? Living and growing up in cities can really alienate one from the problems of the forest. Most of us haven’t even noticed that the sparrow that used to perch on our balconies does not come anymore. Or that butterflies no longer visit our gardens. So, how can one possibly know that the population of snow leopards in India is less than 600, making it a critically endangered species whose future is threatened?

Bridge the gap

Or is it easy for us to keep a tab on the number of one-horned rhinoceros in Kaziranga National Park, Assam, where 20 were killed for their horns this year alone?

The country’s diverse landscapes are home to numerous threatened and critically endangered species, including the Asiatic lion, Asian elephant, tiger, white-rumped vulture, Asian one-horned rhinoceros, and water buffalo. There are many species of deer, antelopes, wild dogs, cats, monkeys and bears in India whose habitats are constantly shrinking. Besides mammals, there is a vast array of reptiles, birds and amphibians that are slowly disappearing too.

But you can make a difference this Wildlife Week by taking some time out to actively engage in conservation and awareness projects that give several animals a chance at survival.

Celebrated in the first week of October, typically from October 2 to 8, Wildlife Week is an annual event that aims to raise awareness about the conservation of wildlife. “Wildlife Week aims to bridge the gap between wildlife and wildlife conservation in a bid to encourage more citizens to take up the cause,” says Gerry Martin, popular herpetologist.

Becoming a part of this great legacy of wildlife protection is easy and can start at home.

Becoming a part of this great legacy of wildlife protection is easy and can start at home. You could try a few of these at home in groups or with your parents:

“Do something that will last an entire year,” says Gerry Martin. Backyard conservation projects could be the right place to start for long term conservation projects that are inexpensive and fairly easy. Take a look at the birds in your backyard. How many visitors do you get in a day? For how long do they stay? Why do they come back? If the birds have been giving your backyard a miss, bring back their eco system. Build a bird bath and install a bird feeder that will keep your visitors from getting hungry. The plants in your garden also play a vital role in attracting our winged friends. Continue to replenish the source of water and food for the birds and pretty soon, you’re sure to have brought back a varied species of birds into your backyard.

Form groups and organise a tour or walk of parks and gardens in your city. Spot and identify the different birds and animals you encounter. Consolidate the information you gather about local birds and animals and share it with your friends and family. You might also want to look into what animal and bird species originally lived in the area and were displaced because of urban growth.

Map and track

If you plan to learn more about a particular endangered species, pay it a visit in its natural habitat. India has over 442 animal or wildlife sanctuaries and with your family for company you can make a trip to one of these really easily. Head to Corbett National Park in Uttaranchal to track the fearsome tiger. The park is part of the government’s efforts to protect the tiger. Bandipur National Park in Karnataka is also home to tigers and the Asian elephant. Gir National Park and the Sisan Gir Sanctuary in Gujarat are the only habitats of the Asiatic lion.

The Keoladeo Ghana National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, is a haven for birds and the country’s bird sanctuary that houses a number of indigenous and migratory birds. Study your subjects closely when you visit them. Learn of their habits and understand the threats they face. Slowly, try to determine how you can help.

At school, find ways in which you can engage with wildlife issues. Form clubs that work to spread awareness about particular wildlife topics. Debate, quiz, drama and art clubs are some of the forums to address wildlife issues. Form an Eco Task Force that takes up wildlife conservation seriously and works hard to spread the message.

India has a long history of conservation with national parks and protected areas springing up as early as 1935. In fact, the Indian Constitution specifies ‘it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife’. In 1952, the Government of India set up the Indian Board of Wildlife to prevent the extinction of animal and bird species. Today, the country has more than 600 protected areas with the Ministry of Environment and Forest working with the objective of protecting wildlife, controlling poaching, smuggling and illegal trade in wildlife through the landmark Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.