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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Career in Wildlife Protection






ASK any foreigner what comes to mind when India is mentioned, and chances are you will hear about images of tigers, elephants, and snake charmers. However, considering this view of India, the fate of wildlife in the country hangs precariously in balance as economic development is fast taking over their forest habitats and illegal trading of wildlife goes largely unchecked. According to Praveen Bharghav, a trustee of WildLife First (a wildlife conservation NGO), "Only 3%of the Indian landscape is reserved for wildlife, and it is imperative to look at land use scientifically to preserve wildlife habitats". He goes on to make an important point that while a building, a highway, or a dam can be moved, the extinction of a species is irreversible. 


   If the conservation and protection of wildlife interests you, then pursuing a career may be an option. However, be warned that a career in wildlife protection is not for those who have a casual interest in animals. "First try it out, volunteer for a NGO in your area and see if you are dedicated to the cause. Only then should you consider a professional qualification. Protecting wildlife is an uphill task as you deal with courts, traders, developers and poachers and it can be frustrating if you are not truly dedicated to the cause," says Uttara Mendiratta, a senior conservation officer at the WPSI (Wildlife Protection Society of India). Uttara is a history major, who volunteered with an NGO for five years before deciding to pursue a Master's in the field at the Wildlife Conservation Society of India (WCSI) in Bangalore. She adds, "When you volunteer, try and do some field work too. It makes you realise that the work you do is actually needed and can make a difference." 


There are a few options available to wildlife lovers if they choose this as their career. One can opt for any of the following paths to get into this field: 


Indian Civil Service: If you have a basic degree in engineering or any science stream, you can take the Indian Forest Service exam conducted by the Union Public Service Commission and get a government posting that allows you to implement policies, laws etc. This is the highest level of government posting one can get and is highly competitive. With it, one can effectively manage forest resources of the country, including wildlife. State Forest Service: In case your grades are not completely up to the mark, consider the State Forest Service exam. This is at a slightly lower level than the Indian Civil Service but will still allow you to work towards protecting wildlife. Park Rangers: This post is for those who are keen on physically guarding the forests and living there. 


Non-Governmental Organisations have always been key to the advancement of any social cause. Free from the constraints of bureaucracy that often stalls government work, NGOs are free to pursue their own agendas and make a significant impact. NGOs are typically run by volunteers, trusts, or through the aid of international organisations. One works as an activist for the cause and the achievements are credible and noteworthy. Bhargav speaks very proudly of the instance when the NGO fought a court case all the way to the Supreme Court to shut down a government mining company because the company was going to cut down a wildlife habitat. 


   While Wildlife First concentrates on land use, WPSI focuses on trade related issues. Mendiratta talks of focusing on illegal trade issues, poaching investigations, following up court cases and also working with international organisations. Another aspect of their work also includes conducting workshops to educate the public, rangers and corporate on the importance of protecting wildlife. In case you are not too keen on being an activist and are more business-minded, you can work with other organisations that also contribute towards wildlife conservation. 


  For example, Sanctuary magazine is a well-known publication that works to spread awareness on conservation issues through its magazine, events, and CSR programmes. The most famous of its activities is Sanctuary Cub, which reaches out to children across schools and nature clubs. Companies like Wild India run wildlife tours through Indian wildlife reserves. 


For those with a more scientific or academic bent of mind, pursuing a PhD in Wildlife is an option. Researchers study behaviour and ecology of many species and are key to giving recommendations on how best to manage natural resources to their optimum in order to conserve and protect wildlife. Many Indian researchers work with international organisations and researchers. Also, with the corporate sector becoming more socially responsible, researchers work on consulting projects with them to utilise land better and protect wildlife. 


A genuine interest in the preservation of the natural environment and habitat, liking for outdoors, spirit of adventure, good health, stamina and physical fitness, patience, scientific temperament, excellent skills of observation, interest in agriculture and geography are preferred. A legal degree is also helpful. 


Any one from a science background can pursue a BSc or MSc in Wildlife.The Wildlife Conservation Society of India (WCSI) conducts a two-year MSc programme but it is not necessary to be a science graduate to apply for this course. 


This is not a money-making profession. A lot of the organisations are run by volunteers or by non-profit trusts. However, one can expect career satisfaction to be high. 


Wild Life Institute of India, Dehradun (MSc Wildlife) 
Tamil Nadu Veterinary And Animal Sciences University, Chennai, or (BSc Animal Welfare) 


Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal, or 
GuruGhasidas University, Bilaspur, (Madhya Pradesh) Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) (MSc in Wildlife) at 



Sunil Sharma


Dil Se Desi Group


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