Photo: Govardhan Meena.
Month Year: December 2013
Young Naturalist Award
Tiger protector, crusader and wildlife activist
This young naturalist from the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve is living proof that working with children is probably the most effective way to usher in paradigm shifts in our nation’s attitude to wildlife. Currently, one of his major preoccupations is to keep both tigers and people safe when a big cat strays into human habitats on the periphery of the park. Two young tigers in particular, B1 and B2, were headed for conflict with the residents of the Khawa village in 2012, when Meghraj brought their presence to the notice of Govardhan Meena, Sanctuary’s Kids for Tigers Coordinator in Ranthambhore. In short order, wildlife officials were alerted, and conflict was avoided. Both tigers, incidentally, were later translocated to Sariska.
Photo: Govardhan Meena.
When Kids for Tigers, the Sanctuary Tiger Programme, was launched in 2000, Meghraj Saini was just three years old. By the time he was six, he began to hang around the older kids, who would visit Fateh Singh Rathore’s Maa Farm, where many of Sanctuary’s meetings used to be held. By sheer osmosis, Meghraj grew into what turned out to be his mission in life – to save the tigers of Ranthambhore and win support from villagers whose relationship with the tiger reserve was at best strained. By the year 2006, he served notice to all and sundry that he was a force to contend with as far as tiger conservation went. At 16 years, he is now a living embodiment of the Kids for Tigers’ mission. Born in Khawa to a family of farmers on the very edge of the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, he travels from village to village, organising meetings to win support for the tiger, explaining how to avoid conflict and drawing children into conservation through plays, competitions, clean-up initiatives and more. Now studying for his B.Sc at the Government College, Sawai Madhopur, he has already become a force to reckon with and a vital link between people and the park. Wise beyond his years and a realist, he says that much more work has to be done with the community to improve the quality of their lives and encourage livelihoods that are in harmony with wildlife. We have no doubt that Meghraj Saini is already defining the future of wildlife conservation, not only around Ranthambhore, but across India.
For this, we honour him.
First published in: Sanctuary Asia Vol. XXXIII No.6, December 2013.