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Wildlife Conservation: Saving nature takes passion!

Last updated on: August 22, 2012 18:40 IST

Wildlife Conservation: Saving nature takes passion!

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Ajeet Singh, Careers360

Professionals in this field wear multiple hats irrespective of their credentials -- scientist, researcher, writer, advocate and activist, to name a few.

FAST FACTS
Programmes:
MSc (Wildlife Science); MSc (Wildlife Biology and Conservation)
Best institutes: WII-Dehradun, NCBS-Bangalore
Job opportunities:
Field researchers, scientists, conservation biologist, wildlife journalist and campaign manager
Recruiters: National parks and tiger reserves, NGOs like WWF, WCS, WTI, PETA

When Delhi-based journalist Joy Mazoomdaar visited Sariska Tiger Reserve in Alwar district, Rajasthan in 2005, he found that there was not even one tiger left in one of India's oldest tiger reserves.

For him, this was the biggest wildlife-related news of that decade. As the news was published, the country was in for a shock.

Several organisations confirmed media reports which stated that ''not a single sign of evidence -- direct or indirect -- indicated the presence of tigers in Rajasthan's Sariska reserve".

It proved to be a turning point in the cycle of wildlife conservation in India. The country officially declared the existence of a 'Tiger Crisis'. The extinction of an iconic animal like the tiger from Sariska attracted the focus of everyone concerned with environment and wildlife conservation.

Through government programmes like Project Tiger, which started in the early 70s, the idea and approach towards wildlife conservation changed significantly. Yet, there is an immense need to integrate the efforts, approach and expertise of key stakeholders.

In the past, working for wildlife has been a passion for many people. But now it offers various roles and opportunities for those wanting to dedicate their lives to it.

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Image: Project Tiger governs 42 tiger reserves in the country
Photographs: Sonil Dedhia/Rediff.com

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A combination of expertise and multitasking skills is crucial

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The field has witnessed a shift from authority-led to community-oriented conservation, and several government agencies and NGOs are working at various levels, with varying approaches to protect natural habitat and wildlife.

This is because tackling the challenges of wildlife requires different combinations of expertise.

Field biologist Dr Dharmendra Khandal now leads the initiatives of Tiger Watch, an NGO working for conservation of wildlife in Ranthambore National Park.

Since 2003, he has done phenomenal work in tiger monitoring and anti-poaching operations.

"Working for wildlife conservation is largely a multitasking operation. I started with tiger monitoring, then got involved in anti-poaching operations and helped the police and forest departments to catch 68 poachers. Rehabilitation and education of poaching tribes around tiger reserve is also an integral part of our efforts," shares Dr Dharmendra.

But it's not all easy. He was attacked, continues to get threats and has had to struggle to raise funds for his operations. But according to him, getting recognition for good work is getting easier and opportunities are growing.

"Working for any aspect of wildlife conservation has its own charm, challenge and excitement," he shares. Many shift between sub-domains also.

"Some researchers become film-makers or administrators become experts. Essentially, everyone concerned with wildlife may have some role in its conservation," he shares.


Image: Tackling wildlife creatures requires expertise
Photographs: Courtesy Sanctuary Asia

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Pursue masters in wildlife conservation

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Life Sciences provide a knowledge base to understand wildlife, while veterinary and environment science help in its conservation.

A Bachelor's degree in Zoology, Botany, Forestry, Environment or Veterinary Science could be the first step after studying science and maths at the higher secondary level.

Geographic Information Systems, Remote Sensing and Statistics are getting increasingly important in advance methods of animal monitoring and census.

The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the National Centre of Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Dehradun are two premier institutes that offer Master's level programmes in Wildlife Conservation, as do some major universities like Aligarh Muslim University. Such programmes attempt to integrate scientific disciplines like landscape ecology, remote sensing and conservation genetics.

At, NCBS, an MSc in Wildlife Biology and Conservation Programme is offered in collaboration with Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS), Bangalore and the degree is awarded by Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai.

Bangalore-based institutes like the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Nature Conservation Foundation and National Institute of Advanced Studies, also make significant academic contributions to the course.

Eligibility and admission

At NCBS, selection is through national-level written test and interview. Reflecting the multidisciplinary nature of conservation, selection of students from a wide range of academic backgrounds is encouraged.

Candidates who have completed their Bachelor's degree in any subject or are in the final year of graduation with an aggregate of at least 50 percent marks  in core subjects, are eligible to apply.

However at WII, the eligibility criterion is either a BSc with Biological Science as a major subject or Bachelor's in Veterinary, Forestry, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences with a minimum aggregate of 55 per cent marks. It also offers scholarships.

At NCBS, the course is offered once in two years and admission is advertised seven to eight months before the course commences. Additionally, a monthly scholarship of Rs 10,000 is given to NCBS students. Hostel accommodation is also provided.


Image: A basic programme will aquaint you with ecology, remote sensing and conservation genetics
Photographs: Courtesy Sanctuary Asia

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Multiple careers to choose from

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There are various modes of entry in a career in Wildlife Conservation. We categorise them into five routes:

1. Wildlife journalism and tourism

This area attracts maximum number of wildlife enthusiasts who do wildlife journalism, nature photography or make documentaries.

Apart from media skills, this area demands knowledge and zeal to explore wildlife. Like media, wildlife tourism also gives opportunity to many nature lovers to combine their passion with their profession.

2. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)/NGOs

From research on endangered species to creating awareness in hunting communities, NGOs are playing various roles in wildlife conservation.

"NGOs require researchers, campaigners, outreach workers, media persons and experts for anti-poaching and intelligence networks. They have recruited some people from local poaching communities to use their expertise against poachers," shares Dr Dharmendra.

After completing a Master's or PhD in Wildlife Sciences, candidates can start working with NGOs as field researchers.

3. Research focus

Many government and NGOs like WII, NCBS, ATREE and NCF are engaged with scientific research related to wildlife. After a Master's in Wildlife Science, researchers get an opportunity in such institutes to pursue a PhD or join as wildlife biologists or research associates. 

4. Government Services

Central and state governments recruit officers in   forest services to manage national parks, tiger reserves and other protected areas. They are later trained in different fields like forestry, wildlife and land management. Any graduate can join these services and develop his/her expertise in wildlife.

However, Rajesh Gopal, Director of National Tiger Conservation Authority says, "In government services, there are fewer entry points for posts like conservation biologist. This situation has minimised the scope for candidates trained in wildlife sciences."

5. Environmental Law

An emerging area, one can combine one's passion for wildlife and knowledge of law to protect the environment from poachers and encroachers. To practice in courts one must acquire a law degree.


Photographs: Courtesy Sanctuary Asia

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Scholarships and fellowships available for higher studies

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The payoff

A fresher can start off with Rs 15,000 to 20,000 a month at an NGO after completing his Master's.

GIS experts and researchers can expect more according to their skill and experience. Since chances for government jobs are mainly through civil services, many wildlife researchers join academics or research institutions where they may have better career opportunities.

WII and NCBS also offer scholarships and fellowships to select candidates pursuing Master's and PhD.

Personal attributes

Conservation scientists or campaigners should understand relevant social, environmental and economic issues that impact wildlife.

They have to possess good communication and problem-solving skills to be effective conservation leaders. At the same time, their core competence in Wildlife Sciences and their commitment to save wildlife, must not be compromised.

As Prerna says, "What really carries you through is your commitment and conviction -- that's when you really push the bar."


Photographs: Courtesy Sanctuary Asia
Tags: NCBS , NGO , GIS , WII , Prerna

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Course structure and institutes in India

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The Msc Wildlife Conservation course is spread across four semesters. The course delivered through classroom, lab practicals, field visits and assignments. Details are as follows:

Semester 1: Intro to evolution, diversity, distribution and biology of plant and animal life (emphasis on India). Basic skills in maths, statistics, within the framework of practice of science.

Semester 2: Provides a foundation in population ecology, conservation biology and landscape ecology. Hands-on training in the application of modern tools in conservation.

Semester 3: Addresses the historical, social and economic framework within which conservation operates. It also develops communication and problem solving skills.

Semester 4: Students must design and implement a project, using the theoretical and practical skills that they have learned.

Institutes offering MSc in Wildlife Science and Conservation

  • Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun
  • National Centre for Biological Research, Bangalore
  • Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh (Uttar Pradesh)
  • Guru Ghasidas University, Bilaspur (Chhattisgarh)
  • Sam Higginbottom Institute of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences (SHIATS), Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh)
  • Government Arts College, Udhagamandalam (Tamil Nadu)
  • Kuvempu University, Shimoga, Karnataka




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