QUEEN’S ROAD: Bengaluru now has a youth leg to TEDx, thanks to efforts of CMR National PU College students.
TEDx Youth is themed on ‘heterodoxy’ — as opposed to everything that’s orthodox — and six speakers, who have challenged norms and charted their own course against several odds, will explore it today over four hours. The event begins at 2 pm at Ekya School Campus, ITPL.
Wildlife conservationist Gerry Martin, the first speaker, began his journey when he was 19 at the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, where he oversaw the breeding of king cobras.
“We had no Internet to help us identify the animals’ needs. The lack of information made everything we did an experiment. We learnt everything from scratch,” he says. “Being able to constantly try new things was exciting.”
At the event, Gerry plans to highlight the need for critical thinking which helped him deal with different phases of his life.
The crocodile zoo had 300 cobra species, in addition to an variety of other reptiles. He recalls a particularly challenging task: “Once, we had to feed the snakes rats as they were not accepting any other food. We had to seduce them with the scent, placing the rats in close to the reptiles’ habitats. We had no idea if it would work or not.”
After establishing himself in this field, Gerry went on to become the National Geographic channel’s face for Asia. However, he does not consider this an achievement.
“I don’t like being on TV as it is very controlled. It’s more about the people on television, rather than the animals themselves,” he says. “I grew up being obsessed with the National Geographic. But things have changed and TRPs are more important now.”
He eventually retired from television to contribute towards education. Gerry worked with iDiscoveri Education, creating a curriculum which encouraged children to learn from the outdoors. Amid all this, he started a method of learning physics through treks. “Identifying the vectors taught in physics during rock climbing expeditions and seeing the formula in action is a better way to learn than from the conventional textbook,” Gerry says. “Friction and force can also be understood better in nature.” More than 10,000 schools have tied up with iDiscoveri Education.
Gerry, who feels passionately about conservation, set up The Gerry Martin Project.
The non-profit organisation is currently developing anti-venoms, as only one anti-venom serum is available throughout the country, manufactured in Tamil Nadu.
For the past five years, the organisation has been conducting surveys with victims of snake bites to understand the properties of the venom, working in co-ordination with scientists across the country.
“Snake bites go largely unreported and there is only one standardised test for the myriad species out there. We have tied up with up labs in IISc to study bites,” Gerry says.
The organisation takes a holistic approach to conservation. In Hunsur, The Gerry Martin Project is tackling an agricultural crisis. “The crops have the after effect of the green revolution. We are trying to show them healthier methods of crop development,” he says.
Conservation involves diversity of life around us, he believes.
“So we have also tried to negate the effects of man-animal conflict in the region caused by snake bites, and poaching,” the wildlife enthusiast explains.