Let’s be sensitive to wildlife

  • Shankar Bennur
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Of late, there has been tremendous interest among the general public regarding conservation issues. And the century-old Mysore zoo, being the best maintained and one of the oldest zoos in India, is in the forefront of education and conservation efforts.

Since several years, the zoo has been creating awareness about wildlife and environment protection and conservation issues among its visitors, particularly the children. Today, a visit to the zoo will surely motivate and encourage visitors to do their bit for saving the wildlife from extinction.

In continuation of its efforts for developing sensitivity towards wildlife, the zoo recently launched a new initiative aiming to rope in the people from urban centres towards conservation and protection in the light of reports of increasing conflict between humans and wildlife.

The zoo has introduced an interactive conservation education programme — Conservation Speak — on the first Tuesday of every month. Eminent personalities involved in conservation and natural resources management are invited to speak on select topics of contemporary importance at the programme.

The first in the series began during the inauguration of Wildlife Week celebrations at the zoo last week. Vidya Athreya, a conservation biologist from Pune, was the speaker. Having done extensive studies on human-leopard conflict in Maharashtra for over eight years, Ms. Athreya spoke on the topic “Leopards in our midst - what do we do with the urban carnivores”?

The topic was apt as the records from the Mysore forest division, according to the zoo, reveal that 11 leopards had been relocated so far in the current year. The straying of leopards into human habitation has become common in and around Mysore in the last three-four years. The increasing human-leopard conflict and its management was the topic of discussion and Ms. Athreya spoke at length about the role of people in protecting the carnivore.

In India, path-breaking studies on conservation biology have been conducted and the findings have been published in a number of journals and have also appeared in newspapers. But, there is a need to listen to the experts and interact with them for generating debate and understanding the subject or findings for practical application in the field, according to the zoo’s Executive Director B.P. Ravi.

Therefore, he said, Conservation Speak was introduced so that the people in Mysore get a platform to interact with the experts for better understanding of the issues requiring attention and respond sensitively for conserving wildlife.

Increased urbanisation, industrialisation and developmental activities have resulted in tremendous pressure on natural resources. Moreover, there is a lot of discussion and debate on conservation efforts undertaken by government and its agencies on various issues affecting communities, Mr. Ravi said in a release here.

Says Mr. Ravi: “As a centre of ex situ conservation, the zoo feels compelled to establish a linkage between in situ and ex situ efforts for better understanding and appreciation of conservation strategies adopted in the country.”

The management policies and strategies implemented by the government and its agencies have come under the scrutiny of the media, environmentalists and other stakeholders. The debate and discussion is not always structured and based on facts. The zoo’s effort to bring experts from across the country may take the debate in the right direction and understand conservation strategies better.

A number of activities aimed at educating the masses and creating awareness about the importance of wildlife and its conservation are conducted by the zoo during the Wildlife Week celebrations every year, and this year the Conservation Speak was launched to give an opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts to listen to the experts and contribute accordingly, Mr. Ravi said.

Decades-long campaign

Since over two decades, the zoo has been associated with conservation education and conducts activities like photography exhibition, essay writing, spot painting, debate etc., on various wildlife themes every year.

Programmes such as Youth Club have drawn tremendous attention and interest among the youths. The club has turned out to be the best platform for sensitising the community about wildlife and nature at an early age.

Every year, 50-60 youths between 12-18 years of age are exposed to various aspects of animal management, including captive management, and welfare. The youths learn about animals and birds in detail as the Youth Club, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, aims to develop inquisitiveness about wildlife, environment and conservation in the young minds.

For 25 weeks every Sunday between 9.30 a.m. and 1.30 p.m., club members will be involved in the activities conducted by the zoo volunteers, resource persons and experts in wildlife conservation. “The zoo educates them about environment protection, and nature and wildlife conservation besides helping them to develop their personality. One of the objectives of the club is to make club members interact with visitors and encourage good behaviour by exchanging ideas about keeping the zoo clean,” according to Mr. Ravi.

Shankar Bennur

To bring down human-animal conflicts, the Mysore zoo has introduced an interactive conservation education programme