Dr. G.I.B Takes Conservation To The Kids
Armed with a life-sized Great Indian Bustard model, Dr. Pramod Patil is empowering Rajasthani youth to conserve their endangered, wild neighbour.
Photo: Joe Shute
“The kids are wanderers. They’re little Mowglis,” says Pramod Patil. In the searing heat of the desert, Patil is fortifying defences against the extinction of the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB). In his fevered race to find and implement a conservation strategy to halt the species’ death knell, he’s now placing his bets on the next generation that resides around Rajasthan’s Desert National Park.
Rajasthan is the Great Indian Bustard’s last stronghold. It is home to the single largest population of the species; 125 of the mere 250 odd individuals left on the planet. Pramod has spent the last few weeks and months here, working with the Forest Department and local communities to secure the neglected, arid habitats on which the GIB relies.
Inspired by Sanctuary Asia’s Kids For Tigers programme, he’s now engaging school children as both conservation awareness ambassadors and landscape monitors in a spin-off programme that he’s titled Kids for G.I.Bs. “These aren’t urban kids, “he stresses, “They live by the Thar desert, they have a bond with its wilderness, but they don’t know much about it. So I approached a number of schools to allow me to bring conservation to the kids, and they responded with enthusiasm.”
Photo: Joe Shute
Beyond simple awareness lectures and workshops, Patil has collaborated with the Rajasthan Forest Department to bring this programme under the state’s Van Dhan Yojana scheme. Through this avenue, they’re strengthening community networks, benefiting participating schools, and mentoring kids to monitor the bustard’s landscape. While some have had reservations about involving children in the serious business of conservation, Patil’s faith in the kids is well-founded, “They’re already proving their mettle, and are reporting valuable GIB sightings to the team.”
The Godawan, as the GIB is locally known, is a species on the brink. By taking its story to the next generation, Patil is buying a little more time for adults to make amends.
An Advocacy Officer with the Bombay Natural History Society, Dr. Pramod Patil won a Sanctuary Wildlife Service Award in 2014 for his relentless work to save the GIB. The following year he received a prestigious Whitley Award for. Over the years, Dr. Patil’s work has been supported by Birdlife International, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and the Whitley Fund for Nature.
Kids For GIBs is conducted in collaboration with the BNHS, the Rajasthan Forest Department and Sanctuary Asia.
Author: Cara Tejpal.