Sanjay Karkare is a journalist turned conservationist. As Assistant Director at the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) in India, he is in charge of BNHS’ work on Born Free’s Living with Tigers programme, of which BNHS is a partner.
Living with Tigers works across central India to safeguard wild tiger populations and educate local communities so they can live peacefully alongside wildlife. Key to this work is education – which Sanjay has spearheaded through Mobile Education Units.
“Conservation education is my passion,” Sanjay says. “I believe that for tiger conservation, local community support is vital. This can be achieved through creating environmental awareness, resolving human-wildlife conflict or by establishing links between local communities and government agencies.”
Mobile Education Units have been educating communities across Satpuda since 2005. The units visit 80-100 schools in seven protected areas to give conservation lectures and educate children about human-wildlife conflict. A nature camp is also held every year with jungle trails, films, exhibitions and lectures.
“Through various capacity building programmes, I have reached a large number of stakeholders including school students, teachers, youths, women and bio-gas beneficiaries,” Sanjay adds.
Other BNHS schemes through Living with Tigers include a bamboo workshop, which has created jobs and reduced incidences of human-wildlife conflict, and a bio-gas scheme through which bio-plants powered by cow dung are constructed in homes to provide a free fuel source to power cooking stoves.
“In a country like India where communities are heavily dependent on natural resources, sustainable development possesses a number of challenges,” Sanjay explains. “It is very difficult to isolate conservation policies from the economic aspirations of local communities. My vision is to create an environmentally-conscious constituency which will take proactive steps to strike a balance between economics and the conservation of the rich biodiversity of the tiger landscape.”
All this is a far cry from Sanjay’s previous career in journalism. He worked on a regional daily newspaper for 13 years as a Senior Sub-Editor and wrote many environment and wildlife-related articles.
“Every human being who is intensively involved to conserve Mother Nature is my hero,” he adds. “Working with underprivileged rural local communities motivates me to work harder.”