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Call of the Wild

LOVE FOR NATURES. Jawahar, Dr. R. Venkatraman, Saro Jayasri B, Nethra Aravind and Hamsa Priya GaneshPHOTO: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

LOVE FOR NATURES. Jawahar, Dr. R. Venkatraman, Saro Jayasri B, Nethra Aravind and Hamsa Priya GaneshPHOTO: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT  

‘Voices of the Wild’ formed by a group of Madurai school students aims to reconnect children with nature and participate in conservation through photography

It takes people to save wildlife and nature. And when children choose to become defenders of wildlife and show adults the way, our future is safe. Madurai’s well know historian of arts and aesthetics, Prof.R.Venkatraman, said so while blessing two young city girls who instead of alienating themselves from nature like most modern day kids do, chose to travel to the Gir National park in Gujarat this summer and compiled their brilliant shots of the Asiatic Lion into a desk top calendar for the new year.

“Camera doesn’t work on its own. You need eyes to see the beauty and then bring it back for others to see,” Prof.Venkatraman said lauding the efforts of the two teenaged students of Lakshmi School -- Nethra Aravind, 14 years and Saro Jayasri B, 13 years. They went on a week’s trip as part of Delhi-based Teens For Tigers (TfT) team and were accompanied by journalist-cum-wildlife photographer Kamal Sahai and another teenaged student Dhruv Wadkar from Delhi and wildlife enthusiast from Madurai, Dr.Nandini Murali.

Buoyed by their experience in the wild, the two girls after returning set up ‘Voices of the Wild (VoW)’ with Dr.Nandini as the facilitator. The idea is to bring together city kids and motivate them to explore the rich diversity of wildlife, sensitise them to forest conservation and raise awareness on our magnificent national and natural resources and assets. The group has already enrolled five new young members and working on its next trip to Yala National Park in Sri Lanka this month.

Generally adults don’t like to say No to children especially if they show interest in nature experiences. And as Dr.Nandini pointed out, the parents of the two girls lent unconditional support and how the trip completely transformed the children.

“Education, both in letter and spirit, takes place beyond the classroom,” she said, asserting on the need for such excursions.

“We live in times of two-minute noodles, instant texting and Play Station. As a result, most children today are disconnected from Nature,” she said.

Impressed by the children’s perspectives of the King of the jungle, Prof.Venkatraman, who released the 2015 desktop calendar – ‘With the Gir Lions’ – said every frame beautifully captured the moods and emotions of the majestic lion.

“Animals are never at war, they kill only with a purpose. But Man is destructive,” he said, and the children have brought home this message even more powerfully. Nethra’s and Saro’s frozen frames capture the playful bonding between two brothers, the protective eye of a lioness on her cub, the comforting rub against each other’s faces, a clan playing together or the alert lion patrolling his territory. It is a wonderful way of discovering the animal world.

Prof.Venkatraman mentioned that in his childhood, the only way to know about flora and fauna was through books and movies. And even though today’s generation is immersed in technology and gadgets, there are still many who are willing to develop themselves better by getting wired to nature. Simple appreciation of amazing animals, plants and birds we live with helps us to grow and evolve, he said, recommending a must read of books like Tarzan- Man of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, The Book of Indian Birds by Salim Ali, M.Krishnan’s Of Birds and Birdsongs and those by world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees, Jane Goodall.

Dr.Nandini said VoW was waiting to happen and a series of interesting convergences made it possible. What began as a casual photography workshop with the children barely a year ago sparked off interest and curiosity in them to discover a new way of relating to the world around.

For Nethra, the trip to Gir was her first ever into a forest and she returned absolutely thrilled. And while she discovered new things about photography, she also learnt how similar lions are to humans, how they hunt, eat and live together. “The experience taught us to be observant, perseverant, patient and confident,” she says.

For Saro, who has been several birding trips with her father, taking his prized camera for the Gir trip was an added joy. “Earlier, I used to take photos only for fun. Now I am hooked on to wildlife photography,” she says. Saro always had a fascination for birds and lions but after the Gir trip, she is ever more charmed by the lion’s playfulness.

TfT, started six years ago, and now VoW will work in tandem and take up similar activities to help children realise the importance of forest wealth and be driven towards its preservation.

It will have the desired effect when more children sacrifice their screen time to go out and get exposed to the beauty of nature. The VoW should perhaps start an active participation drive involving more number of city schools and students.

The brief calendar release function was both inspirational and an eye-opener on how parents and teachers can support the aspirations of their children. The first copies of the desktop calendar were received by Mr.S.Jawahar, the Principal of Lakshmi School and Ms.Hamsa Priya Ganesh, Principal of Mahatma Schools. On the occasion, Dr.Uma Kannan, Secretary Thiagarajar College launched the website www.voiceofthewild.in

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