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A conversation about conservation- Kedar Gore

Kedar Gore has been actively engaged in wildlife conservation and environmental protection work since 1996. He has been associated with reputed NGOs such as WWF-India and TERI. Since 2009, Kedar has been working as the Director of The Corbett Foundation and heads of all its divisions. He has received the NUFFIC Fellowship of The Netherlands Government in 2009 and 2012, and is a Fellow of the International Visitor Leadership Program 2010 of the US Department of State. He has a Post Graduate Diploma in Conservation Biology from the Bombay Natural History Society, in addition to other professional courses from the Wildlife Institute of India, the Wageningen University, and the US Department of State. He has been serving as a Member of the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication, IUCN SSC Bustard Specialist Group and IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, South Asia. In 2018, Kedar received the “50 Most Impactful Social Innovators” award at the World CSR Congress held in Mumbai.

Q1) How long have you been in the field of conservation education and what made you take it up?

I have been involved in the field of conservation education formally since November 1996, when I joined WWF-India, and informally since my college days as a volunteer with BNHS and few educational institutions in Mumbai.

As a student, I always dreamt of being in the field of wildlife conservation as I trekked through the wilderness of India. In Mumbai, Sanjay Gandhi National Park was my second home in the early 1990s. Various nature trails into this extraordinary wilderness transformed my life and helped me nurture the thought of dedicating the rest of my life in protecting such wilderness and its wild denizens all across India. My Association with an organization like Bombay Natural History Society helped me immensely in honing my skills as a Naturalist.

In my school days, I spent most of my vacations in the virgin and rugged landscape of Konkan. My native place is a pristine village in Ratnagiri nestled next to a creek and Konkan hills. Venturing into the forests here, I watched my first wild bird through a pair of binoculars there at the age of 10. This hobby turned into a lifelong passion to conserve birds and other wildlife.

Pic 1: At one with nature

Q2) What is conservation education according to you?

Conservation education is not only making people aware about the natural world around and its interaction with the larger environment but also sensitising them enough to become defenders of nature and environment in true sense. It is not just information dissemination but must lead to attitudinal and behavioural changes, make sure that people become conscious citizens who would raise their voices and stand up against any form of destruction of nature and environment. Conservation education is a process that starts as a hobby and culminates into a lifelong passion to conserve nature and wildlife.

Q3) How important is conservation education?

Very important. It is actually an imperative. It should form the basis of several fundamentals that we are taught in early school, should continue through university education and practised in the work places.

Pic 2: conservation education should start at an early age

Q4) According to you, should it be made imperative to have conservation education as a subject in our educational institutions? If yes, what component of conservation education should be included for the institutions

It already is a part of formal education these days. But more than the theory, there should be a lot of emphasis on field visits and experiential learning. Every child should be exposed to the local biodiversity and its conservation. Educational institutions should take efforts to connect the students to nearby wilderness areas, Protected Areas, zoos, botanical gardens. A child should learn to look at a beach as a rocky, sandy or muddy shore. The child should understand the difference between greenery and forest. Conservation education is equally important for urban as well as rural kids. Conservation education should be tailor-made for people residing in and around natural ecosystems. For urban children, exploring a forest cold be an exciting excursion whereas for a rural kid this could be a matter of grave risk. Focus should be given to avoiding and mitigating human-wildlife conflict situations, and providing sustainable alternatives to ensure co-existence of wildlife and human beings vis-a-vis developmental needs. At an early age, children should be moulded into understanding and dealing with the complex conservation issues.Conservation education should also be integrated into other subjects as well wherever possible.

Q5) According to you, is conservation education an integral part of conservation itself? If yes, how do you think it will have an impact on conservation in the long run?

Conservation education is the first step towards conservation. No conservation programme can be successful without the involvement of people whose fundamentals about conservation education aren’t clear. The world does not just need economists and businessmen, it also needs people who understand and give importance to conservation. In fact, time has come for the conservationists and other professionals of for-profit world to work hand-in-hand to achieve sustainable development. Conservation education must be a ‘compulsory training’ for our politicians and bureaucrats!

Q6) As someone who has been in this field for long, have you sensed a shift or change in attitude towards conservation education in today’s world?

There is an increased awareness about the natural world today and this certainly a result of the sustained conservation education programmes being implemented by several organisations and individuals. People are receptive to conservation education but not to the extent needed to create a ‘green force’ to counter the unsustainable and whimsical developmental projects floated by the powers that be. People need to go beyond ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ on social media and take up conservation issues with the sound knowledge gained. Conservation is a serious business and much more complex than we think it is. Every developmental project must be looked into from the point of view of its impacts on the conservation of ecosystems, natural resources, biodiversity and people.

Pic 3: There is an increased awareness about conservation education

Q7) Can conservation education be taken up as a career option? What would be your advice to the concerned people if they would like to consider this line of profession?

I would highly encourage youngsters to take up conservation field as a career as there are several options available. Youngsters may also consider purely ‘conservation education’ as a career but there could be limitations with respect to career opportunities available. In India, at least, there are few options unlike in western countries; there are many career options available. However, many people with passion and knowledge about the natural world are freelance naturalists accompanying groups to wilderness areas in India and abroad, sharing their knowledge and/or skills about wildlife/nature photography. There are several people who have used their artistic skills in imparting conservation education eg. caricature artists, cartoonists, painters, origami artists, designers, photographers, etc. These days Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an important activity undertaken by most companies. Conservation professionals can play an important role as CSR team members of the corporate sector to make a huge environmental and social impacts leading to conservation.

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