BANGALORE: Gerry Martin is no stranger to Bangalore. A herpetologist and conservationist, he is one of the most appreciated figures in the world. Not only does he have a show of his own in the National Geographic channel to his credit but he has also been instrumental in the preservation of the ‘creepy crawlies’ of nature — snakes.
Gerry’s latest step towards conservation is a project titled The Gerry Martin Project (TGMP). What started off as a one man show three years ago, has now been registered as a company for the past one year. TGMP served as a bridge between wildlife conservationists — the Government and researchers. Initially one would have thought that TGMP is like any other NGO, but this is what Gerry had to say : “To begin with, TGMP is not an NGO. It is a for profit responsible conservation entrepreneurship. It does not believe in charity but in the value of conservation and the power of self sustenance.”
The major focus of TGMP is on snake bite issues in the country. “It involves understanding fundamentally snakebites, venom and the existing anti-venom,” explained Gerry. TGMP is also a part of the project headed by Centre for Herpetology and is one of the major projects of Romulus Whitetaker, father of Indian Herpetology.
Gerry believes that it is imperative to include communities and spread awareness when it comes to conservation and that people should be educated about the importance of keeping animals alive rather than dead. He also agrees that educating people about conservation is going to be a slow and lengthy process, especially the older generation as adults usually don’t open up to such issues.
The TGMP team runs various workshops and camps with children, and it plays a key role in imparting the skills and experience required in dealing with nature. According to Gerry and his team, working with children yields the most positive results. When asked about snake menace in the city, he said that the BBMP snake rescuers team is one of the best in the country but what they are doing is the easiest way to damage the ecosystem. He said, “A snake that has survived in the city for a long time,would never cope up in another environment. What the rescue team at BBMP does can be categorised as snake moving rather than rescuing.” Gerry also suggested that what the BBMP snake rescue team could do is release the snake as close as possible to its natural ecosystem as the forest may not always be the right place for a snake that is accustomed to the city.
TGMP is planning to start an outreach programme in Bangalore, and is on the look out for volunteers. “They vary from none to 30 at any given time here. We’re now looking for more volunteers, especially in Bangalore,” said Gerry. TGMP already has its presence in Gujarat and West Bengal and is venturing into Karnataka.