CHENNAI: I feel conservation is not only for one or two people to do. Everyone has a responsibility to conserve. They don’t have to make it a career choice, but everyone has to do their bit,” says Karthik Prabhu, co-founder of Santhi Animal Wildlife Welfare Conservation Trust (SAWWCT), wildlife conservation and awareness enthusiast. The 25-year-old from Puducherry couldn’t keep away from his love for animals and chose to pick a career centred around them.
When did you start working with animals?
I was in class 9. I had a distant uncle, Murugan, who was a snake rescuer, dancer and musician. I liked hanging out with him. He allowed me to watch him rescue snakes and help him clean the cages of animals kept at the forest department office. That’s how I met G Kumar, the forest conservator at the department. He encouraged and gave me many opportunities to take up projects in tandem with them. I then started attending workshops on conservation and networking with people. One of my mentors, D Saravanan, honorary wildlife warden of Aranya Forest, always says that this earth is for the future generation and we need to give it to them like it was given to us. I met a lot of people like Jerry Martin and Sanjiv Pednekar who have started wildlife conservation organisations. Now we work together.
Is a career in conservation lucrative?
There are two kinds of people who make money conserving — people who come from wealthy backgrounds and people who are high level officials at an organisation that is into conservation. I come from a middle-class family. I did Biochemical Engineering at Puducherry Community College and completed my Masters degree at Pondicherry University. I am currently planning on doing a PhD. During that time, I was also working with animals and now I’ve made it my full-time job. Many people are doing more than their bit because several others don’t want to contribute as they are just trying to make money. I was an educational coordinator for Aranya Forest for three years, worked with Prani in Bengaluru for a year and I’m now taking up projects to design modern architecture using eco-friendly materials like bamboo trunks and leaves. I’m back in Puducherry, looking out for the next project.
How did your family react to your
When I was a child, my parents took me to many zoos and circuses. I was surrounded by animals for most of my childhood. When I told them what I wanted to do, they didn’t think it was economical and discouraged me. They even sent me to Malaysia to work as a supervisor. I spent a year there but didn’t work at the job they got me. The broker took us there on the pretext that we would be supervisors but it was actually a labour job. I was decent with the English language and talked them into giving me my passport back. I then took up a job in a local petting zoo and began learning more there. I also worked as a restaurant manager for extra money. I returned a year later even more enthusiastic about wildlife. Years later when I appeared on TV and a local Tamil newspaper wrote about me, they were so proud of me. They have now come to terms with it.
What response have you seen from the youth towards conservation?
I meet over 3,000 children every year at workshops. At least 50% of them are interested in learning about wildlife. Half of them even seem interested in taking it up seriously. The rest have high expectations and leave the workshop disappointed. They have been taught that it is mandatory to see an animal when you go to the forest. This is not true. There are a lot of techniques, rules and practices one must first learn before venturing into the forest to see a wild animal.
What is your take on the issue of
Apart from deforestation, pollution and mining, over-consumerism is a huge contributor to climate change. It gives rise to more problems like improper waste disposal and clogging. The more we indulge in consumerism, the more the waste creation.