Is awareness the answer?
by Zaara Kidwai, Programme Officer (Awareness), TCF Corbett
After completing my masters in wildlife, I realized that the only place I wanted to be was a jungle. It may seem odd to any normal person but it was the only thing that would make sense to me then. If asked, why jungles? I would say, “Because I want to conserve the forests; many animals rely on them.” The answer to that question for me is still the same, but I guess, the tactics have changed. At that time I was working from inside the forest, and now, I am working outside it.
Presently, there are numerous researchers working on tigers, leopards and other large and small carnivores. I used to be one of them but I realized the other side has no clue of what we are doing inside the forest and, like me, many others realized that there is an urgent need to aware people of what kind of efforts we are putting into these jungles.
Out of the total population, approximately 90% of the people have no idea about the jungles they are living around and the rest 10% are fighting to save it. These 90% includes people from all tribes, villages and even cities. Many educated and civilized people do not understand the concept of saving the forests even though they support “saving the tiger” campaign probably due to its commercial importance and timely advertisements. I bet if we ask them, they wouldn’t even know what the distribution of tiger around India is. The people I have met and asked still say Cheetah is the same as tiger or leopard; and I am talking about engineering and medical students here.
Awareness is more like telling stories; stories of food chain, continental drifts and presence of different animals in different areas and then threats that we are posing on to them. We tell the kids what we used to have and how it is being depleted. Some kids grasp it faster than the other, but then, that is the whole challenge of it. Doing a research is a difficult task no doubt, but the researcher knows what he want and gets his answers eventually. However, spreading awareness is a probability game; you may or may not get the answers you had expected but it will prepare you to plan your next level which could be tougher or easier than before. Raising awareness gets a lot more exciting when the kids actually remember what you taught them last time.
Entertainment media deserves a lot of credit for having channels like Discovery and Animal Planet which educate young minds about animals and their dependencies. Though there is also an option of changing the channel for those people whose attention the ugly looking monitor lizards or nasty moles could not grasp.Knowing the intellect of people is a key to inspire them with one’s logic about saving wildlife and forests. But it totally depends on the people’s perception of how they would practice the teachings in their real life. So I again ask “is awareness the answer to conservation?” I guess to a certain degree it is. But then again, one cannot control someone else’s will. Hence, more stories need to be told and more efforts need to be made in order to get any results before which, we cannot assume that we are anywhere near conserving our mother nature.