Jun 18

Do you love camels as much we do? The Arkive  Team had the wonderful opportunity to chat with the amazing folks at the Wild Camel Protection Foundation to learn all about what they do and their current essay competition with cash prizes!

Can camels drink saltwater? Did you know that you can help camel conservation right this second? Read on to find out more!

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Wild Bactrian camel with newborn calf

Can you tell us the story behind the formation of the Wild Camel Protection Foundation?

In 1997, the Wild Camel Protection Foundation (WCPF) was founded after John Hare realised the wild camel was critically endangered. After several expeditions he made with scientists in Mongolia and three expeditions with Chinese scientists into Lop Nur – the former nuclear test area of China and the habitat of the wild camel – the global estimate of wild camels was found to be less than 1,000 remaining in the wild. In China they were totally unprotected. Co-founding the UK registered charitable foundation WCPF with environmental lawyer Kathryn Rae, the first aim was to establish a protected area for the wild camels in China. Working together with eminent zoologist Professor Yuan Guoying, the Chinese national, and regional authorities and later securing funding from the Global Environmental Facility in Washington, WCPF established a vast reserve – the Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve in Xinjiang province in north-west China. Comprising 155,000 square kilometres, it is one of the largest protected areas in the world and for the first time afforded protection to the remaining wild camels in China. WCPF is the only environmental organisation in the world which protects the wild camel in its remaining desert habitat.

As experts on the wild Bactrian camel, what are some of the most interesting facts and stories that you can share about this special species?

The wild camel in China survived 43 atmospheric nuclear tests of which over half were more powerful than the atomic bomb which was dropped on Hiroshima at the end of the second world war. It lives in China on salt water with a higher content of salt than sea water. No other mammal can do this – not even the domestic Bactrian camel. In 2008, after 5 years of genetic testing at the Veterinary University in Vienna it was discovered that the wild double-humped camel is a separate species of camel, one which evolved from a species of camel over 700,000 years ago.

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Young wild Bactrian camel

Can you share some field stories about how the Wild Camel Protection Foundation protects the wild Bactrian camel and its habitat in the Gobi and Gashun Gobi deserts?

In China, the management of the Lop Nur Wild Camel National Nature Reserve supervise the running of the reserve and undertake regular patrols in areas where the wild camels survive.  Checkpoints in the reserve were established with money raised by the WCPF. One of the greatest threats to the wild camel is illegal mining where prospectors go illegally into the desert in an attempt to discover minerals or oil. This greatly disturbs the wild camel which is a migratory species and follows set paths of migration every year. In Mongolia, the wild camel population (approximately 450) is within the Great Gobi Special Protected Area “A’. WCPF works closely with the Director of the protected area and the Mongolian Environmental Ministry. WCPF has established a successful breeding centre for the wild camel in the buffer zone of the park. This is supervised by the Park Director and funded entirely by WCPF. 

Dr. Jane Goodall is a world-renowned chimp champion yet she has dedicated herself to the Wild Camel Protection Foundation as Honorary Life Patron. How did this come about?

Dr. Jane Goodall has been a personal friend of John Hare for over 40 years and, although a primate scientist, she is dedicated to the cause of the wild camel. She greatly admires its tenacity to survive against all the odds in some of the harshest conditions on earth. WCPF worked with the Jane Goodall Institute to establish their Roots and Shoots programme in China.

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Wild Bactrian camel standing in desert landscape

Looking at your Future Scientific Projects section, you list several critical focus areas for future wild camel conservation efforts. Which would you say has the highest priority?

The highest priority is to ascertain the carrying capacity of the desert areas in both Mongolia and China where the wild camel is found. The environment is extremely harsh with sparse desert vegetation and little water found only at water points. These water points change and dry-up so understanding how the desert habitat changes is crucial and would be part of a study to identify how many wild camels these two fragile habitats can support long term. Identifying ways to stop degradation of the desert habitat through mining both illegal and legal is also very important as it is a major problem for the survival of the wild camel in both countries 

What has been your favourite conservation success story at the Wild Camel Protection Foundation? And conversely, what has been your saddest conservation defeat?

Success: Discovering a hidden and unmapped valley in China which contained a naive population of wildlife which had never seen man. Defeat: Going back 7 years later to discover that the wildlife population had been exterminated and the water source polluted  by illegal gold miners. 

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Herd of wild Bactrian camels walking in desert landscape

At Wildscreen, we strive to find multiple ways for our passionate audience to take action in support of the organisations we partner with. What specific actions can our readers take to support the conservation of wild Bactrian camels with the Wild Camel Protection Foundation?

They can become active members of WCPF for a small annual fee of £20 sterling or the equivalent in Euros/Dollars a year. They can buy the booklets about the wild camel which are available through the WCPF websiteAll money raised goes to fund the work in Mongolia. They can sponsor a camel calf. Young camel calves are born every year at the breeding centre in Mongolia and WCPF requires approximately $2,500 a year over three years for medicines, vet visits and hay to ensure each one of these young wild camel calves survive. Individuals can sponsor and name a young wild camel and have the opportunity to follow its development. Every year WCPF visits the protected areas in both countries and this is a major overhead cost for the Foundation.  Winter hay is essential for the 25 wild camels at the breeding centre in Mongolia and costs WCPF $15,000 a year. This money has to be raised annually by the WCPF. It should be noted that all the trustees work for the Foundation on an entirely pro bono basis.

Can you tell us a little about the essay competition you are currently running?

Every year we hold a fundraiser, with the aim of both raising awareness of the plight of the wild camel and its rare desert habitat and also to raise the funds necessary to feed the wild camels in our captive breeding centre, in Mongolia, over the winter. This year we are holding an essay competition, which is kindly sponsored by Cotswold Wildlife Park. The title of the essay is “Why should the critically endangered wild camel be protected”. The competition is open to everyone, with both an adult and a junior category. As well as knowing you are helping the wild camel and its habitat there is also the opportunity to win the top prize of £500 and you will get to name one of the calves born next year! The full terms and conditions can be found on our website

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Wild Bactrian camel walking

We hope you enjoyed learning about the incredible work of the Wild Camel Protection Foundation. Can you pledge to take action to support their efforts? Click the “Wish List” below to log your support. Each doing our own small part, we can turn the tide for camel conservation!

wish list button

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA 

Jun 8

Wildscreen is dedicated to spreading the stories of passionate conservation & wildlife organizations around the world. One such wonderful organization is REGUA (Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu).

 

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This film, narrated by Michael Palin, was produced for REGUA by Verity White of Five Films with a soundtrack written by Matthew Sheeran.

Only 7% of the Atlantic Rainforests original cover remains …

Founded in 2001, REGUA is committed to conserving the Atlantic forest of Rio de Janeiro state’s upper Guapiaçu river basin through land acquisition and management agreements. While the Atlantic forest is one of the most biologically rich places on earth, it is also one of the most threatened with only about seven percent of its original cover remaining. 

All it takes are a couple of heroes … 

Nicholas Locke

Nicholas Locke, President of REGUA (© Alan Martin)

Raquel Locke

Raquel Locke, Vice President of REGUA (© Alan Martin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dynamic husband/wife duo of Nicholas and Raquel Locke spearhead the organization with Nicholas expanding the  reserve to protect more forest and Raquel managing the outreach to nurture and develop REGUA’s reputation. Their love and passion for the nature that surrounds them has helped make REGUA one of the most prominent conservation organizations protecting the Atlantic forest. Their wish list for a brighter future for REGUA is long but there are plenty of ways for all of us to take action right now to help them.

REGUA wish list button

From hunter to hero …

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Adilei Carvalho da Cunha, bird guide

One of the most fascinating members of the REGUA team is Adilei Carvalho da Cunha. Before joining the staff, Adilei was a well known hunter in the area, but today he is one of the best rangers on the staff. He is internationally renowned as one of the best bird guides in South America and has been an invaluable asset to the organization by instilling his love of nature in others.

REGUA takes every chance today to inspire the conservationists of tomorrow …

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Raquel Locke teaching children about nature

One of the most important aspects of REGUA is education, particularly focusing on teaching the local children in the area and helping to create the future generation of conservationists and guardians. Seeing wildlife up close like capybaras, frogs, and caimans helps children to discover happiness and develop a sense of wonder. Most importantly, they become better acquainted with species that need their protection.

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Capybara eating and wading in water

REGUA by the numbers

 9,400 hectares (23,000 acres) in total land acquired and/or managed by REGUA

40 hectares (98 acres) converted from farmed land back to vital wetlands

280,000 trees planted  in the Atlantic forest

90,000 additional trees to be planted in 2015. It is this type of dedication that sets REGUA apart from other organizations in the area

98% reduction in hunting in REGUA since 2001

No person (or nonprofit) is an island … REGUA can not do it alone

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Lodging at the REGUA reserve

REGUA is unique in that those who wish to support Nicholas, Raquel, and the team can do so while experiencing the wonders of the Atlantic rainforest of Brazil for themselves. REGUA operates a state-of-the-art lodge welcoming visitors from all over the world to marvel at the astounding species biodiversity in the area. Feel like rolling up your sleeves and jumping in to help? No problem as there is always plenty of work that needs done at REGUA from helping to host guests at the lodge to jumping in as a nature guide.

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Hummingbird, one of many bird species at REGUA

However, if visiting isn’t an option, REGUA gratefully welcomes support through online donations or by simply telling others about the invaluable work being done by REGUA. Doing so will ensure REGUA can continue their reforestation efforts in the Atlantic forest, and ensure that generations to come can enjoy the diverse wildlife that reside in one of the world’s greatest biological hotspots.

Become a hero for REGUA

Click on the REGUA’s Wish List button below to discover several actions you can take right now, this very minute, to support REGUA. Each pledge of support, no matter the size or type, will be enormously appreciated.

REGUA wish list button

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA 

 

May 19

The prestigious Whitley Awards is hosted by the Whitley Fund for Nature which offers awards and grants to outstanding nature conservationists around the world. These awards aim to accelerate the career paths of recipients by helping them raise their profiles, network, and inspire others.

This year’s Whitley Awards were held on April 29, 2015. The Arkive Team had the amazing opportunity to interview some of this year’s winners whose work focuses on several species ranging from tiny tamarins to gigantic gorillas.

The winners were all asked the same question: How is winning the Whitley Award going to help your ongoing projects?

Pramod Patil

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Pramod Patil (© Whitley Fund for Nature)

India – Community conservation of the great Indian bustard in the Thar Desert, India: a landscape-level approach

Great-Indian-bustard-males-in-territorial-displayWell, currently I work in six Indian states, but I feel that the Thar Desert in Rajasthan is the most important landscape for the long term conservation of great Indian bustards. We are going to use this funding specifically in the Thar Desert to work with the communities. Our prime targets are to work with the communities in different ways such as awareness, capacity building, then networking and also empowering the forest department to conduct anti-poaching activities effectively.

Ananda Kumar

Ananda Kumar crop

Ananda Kumar (© Whitley Fund for Nature)

India – Elephant messengers: using innovative communication systems to enable human-elephant coexistence in southern India

Indian-elephants-play-fightingWe are trying to strengthen out elephant information network and develop early warning systems for the people to send us elephant information in at once so that fatalities due to elephants can be substantially reduced. This will be done in collaboration with the state forest department and the plantation companies, corporate sector, farmers, and people who are working in tea and coffee estates. It’s a collective effort. The Nature Conservation Foundation, where I work, cannot do it alone. We really need to take different people along with us, different stakeholders.  This will lead to a lot of positive results.

Arnaud Desbiez

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Arnaud Desbiez (© Whitley Fund for Nature)

Brazil – Giant armadillos as a flagship species for the conservation of tropical scrublands in the Cerrado

Giant-armadilloThe Whitley Awards is going to make a huge difference for our project. It recognizes a team effort. It’s going to help us expand the project from the pantanal, the world’s largest wetland,  to the Cerrado, an environment which is scrublands and forests .What we’re going to do in the Cerrado is look for the last populations of the giant armadillo. That is important because thanks to our outreach and communications work with the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, giant armadillos have been declared as one of the indicator species for protected areas. So the state is using a system with a lot of indicator species of plants, bats and birds, and for mammals giant armadillos are one of five indicator species. So we really need to get out there and map the distribution of these last animals which could create protected areas.

Inaoyom Imong

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Inaoyom Imong (© Whitley Fund for Nature)

Nigeria – Saving Cross River gorillas through community-based conservation in the Mbe Mountains

Western-lowland-gorilla-sitting-in-clearingThis award is for the communities I work with, those close to gorillas that have the commitment to protect the forest and these gorillas. The award has come at an excellent time. Right now I am working with other communities providing the support that they need to enforce local laws that they have made themselves to protect their resources. I want to create awareness among local people, especially in helping them acquire the skills they need to pursue alternative livelihoods that are more sustainable. So winning this award will help me to expand on all of these efforts. It means having more effective communication with more communities, more people and better protecting the forest and gorillas living around these communities.

Panut Hadisiswoyo

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Panut Hadisiswoyo (© Whitley Fund for Nature)

Indonesia – Conservation villages: building local capacity for the protection of Sumatran orangutans and their habitat, Indonesia

sumatran-orangutan-with-youngOur big project is saving the orangutan habitat, saving the forest and saving the orangutans from extinction. I actually want to expand our approach in working with local people to establish more conservation villages where we tackle the root causes of deforestation and forest degradation. So we want to introduce sustainable farming and livelihoods to local communities. There are alternatives to their livelihoods that will not destroy the rainforest. Our ultimate goal is to alleviate pressures on the forest by developing alternatives for the local communities.  Secondly, I want to restore the degraded habitat of the orangutan in the protected areas by planting trees and improving the understanding of locals. Third, I want to educate the people about the importance of rainforest protection and orangutans. People represent hope. I still really believe that local people want to protect the remaining forest. That makes me feel more encouraged that hope is still there and people actually want to do good things.

 Rosamira Guillen

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Rosamira Guillen (© Whitley Fund for Nature)

Colombia – Proyecto Tití: expanding conservation efforts to protect the cotton-top tamarin in northern Colombia

cotton-headed-tamarin-crouched-on-branchFor the last 15 years we have been in one area within the distribution of cotton-top tamarins in Colombia and we’ve been wanting for a long time to expand to other locations. So our specific mission with the support we are getting from the Whitley Awards is to reach these places and start working with the people there.  Because with more support we can continue expanding to more places in the future and reach further with our conservation work. Specifically, there is this area called San Juan which is about two hours away from where we are right now and that is out next focus for conserving cotton-top tamarins in Colombia.

These amazing individuals have already achieved so much for conservation and through the Whitley Awards are able to advance their work further. Their inspirational work truly embodies the essence of what it means to be a conservation hero. The Arkive Team congratulates all of the winners and hopes that Arkive’s followers are inspired to find their inner conservation hero.

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA

 

Mar 19

Have you ever seen a wildlife film and wondered to yourself, who is the person behind the camera? Enter Rich and Richard Kern – the dynamic wildlife filmmaking father/son duo who capture incredible imagery of Florida’s magnificent wildlife and ecosystems and share it with over 1.5 million students! They are a more-than-worthy team to conclude Arkive’s Conservation Heroes series.

Rich (left) and Richard Kern out in the field.

Rich (left) and Richard Kern out in the field.

If you find Rich and Richard’s story inspiring, then click on the blue button below or at the end of the interview to see Rich and Richard’s “Wish List” of actions that would help them continue sharing their films with the world. Working together, we can support and promote conservation.

Kern wish list button

Can you share the story behind the beginning of Odyssey Earth and how the pieces came together?

Rich: I began as a filmmaker and I showed the films that I produced to travel adventure audiences all over the United States and Canada. In 1977, my wife and I started the non-profit Encounters in Excellence to teach students in the Miami-Dade area about Florida wildlife and ecosystems. This soon became a large series to over 50 schools per year.

Rich Kern and his wife, Judy, founders of Encounters in Excellence

Rich Kern and his wife, Judy, founders of Encounters in Excellence

However, I also wanted to find a way that students could have access to this type of educational material year round. My son, Richard came up with the idea of creating a website for the films he and I had produced. Teachers and students could now navigate this site and explore and discover the different resources available to them for lesson plans which became Odyssey Earth.

Richard: Our typical film presentation series runs from the Fall through early Winter. This past year my dad visited 25 schools and I visited 50 schools. We give 2-3 presentations for each school totaling about 130 presentations each year. We create different presentations for elementary school and then middle school and high school students reaching about 40,000 students each year.

Can you share a filmmaking moment that stands out to you whether it was a connection you made with a species you were filming or a moment of enlightenment about nature?

Rich: I was in Silver Springs, FL filming fish and I was quite focused. I didn’t realize that there was an alligator swimming behind me. I didn’t see it until it was practically in my lap. Once I understood that the alligator was more afraid of me than I was of it then I started following it and filming.

American alligators abound in Florida, USA

Richard: When my dad got home, he started going through the film, and my mother promptly told him that he should buy life insurance.

Have there been ways that you can measure the impact that your work has on students both in Florida and around the world?

Richard: One way that we measure our impact is through questionnaires and evaluations that we hand out to teachers and students.

Rich: The average rating we receive from teachers is a 95% “excellent” for our presentations. I think it also significant that we fill our quotas for teachers and schools that want us to present. We recently made some films that dealt with the food web as well as more specific issues like the rise of sea levels.

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Richard Kern snorkeling and filmmaking in creek

Can you share your typical kit (equipment) list?

Rich: Back in the day, you needed 16mm film equipment and changed your film every 3 minutes.

Richard: With new technology, however it’s changed what you pack. First off you need a backpack to carry all your supplies. Usually we take a fluid head tripod, a small hi-def Canon camcorder, and a digital single lens reflex camera. Getting into specifics though, I always pack a light shotgun microphone, lenses, and an external digital sound recorder. As for essentials in Florida, water to stay hydrated, sunscreen, and mosquito repellent is a must.

Sometimes, a filmmakers kit can be just as interesting to the subject as it is to the filmmakers themselves!

Can you also share your equipment tip list for amateur filmmakers?

Richard: If you already have a handheld camera, then that is a good place to start. I would recommend a fluid head tripod.

Rich: It makes your shot smoother, which makes the film less distracting for the viewer. You can also get a pan-tilt cradle where you can place your camera to get wide angle shots. You also should get a camera with a wi-fi capability which allows you to use it remotely.

What would you advise someone who is starting to look at how to get into wildlife filmmaking?

Rich: Go to college and study biology. Filmmaking you can pick up as you go. As a filmmaker, you have to learn to craft a story. You want to make sure that you get the science right and that you engage your audience. You should also take a journalism course or English course in college, it helps you to effectively create the narrative.

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Rich Kern filming seals early in his career

In your opinion, what is the advantage of visual media compared to other ways of storytelling?

Richard: The written word comes in many different languages that cannot be understood by everyone. Meanwhile, the visual is universal. It’s a universal language. Visual media can be easily digested and seen by everyone.

Finally, what do you find most rewarding in your field of wildlife filmmaking?

Rich: I love it when I capture a rare species behavior. To get it on the screen and get it right the first time is worth a lot of excitement.

Richard: You can look at flora and fauna as puzzle pieces. Seeing how those puzzle pieces work together, finding the relationships is amazing.

 

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The Kerns have been fortunate enough to film a variety of species in incredible global locations

From reading about Heroes to becoming one yourself 

Inspired by Rich and Richard’s story to take action? Please click on the button below to make a pledge today to take an action like sharing their story socially, helping to spread the word further, to donating to their work to educate others about Florida wildlife and ecosystems! Whichever you choose, your pledge to take action matters to the Kerns, to Arkive, and to the incredible species and habitats of Florida.

Take Action!

Kern wish list button

Mar 12
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Subir Chowfin with the forests he has helped to protect in the background

Ever wonder what  a person who dedicated ten years of his life to preserving 450 vital hectares of forest in India looks like? Meet Subir Chowfin, wildlife researcher and the next inspirational person in Arkive’s Conservation Heroes series!

If you find Subir’s story inspires you, click on the blue button below or at the end of the interview to see Subir’s “Wish List” of conservation actions that would make a world of difference for his work.  As a team, we can each take action today to support conservation!

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A Stunning Ecosystem with a Tumultuous History

This Arkive Conservation Hero’s story Pauri Garhwal's Uttarakhand Districtbegins in the Garhwal Himalaya in the Pauri Garhwal district of the state of Uttarakhand in India where, thanks to the efforts of a local wildife researcher and his mother,  450+ hectares of forested land in The Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates are forever protected.

A walk through the estates reveals a bounty of  predominantly oak and pine forests interspersed with grassy hill banks and rocky crags. The forests also house an incredible abundance of wildlife such as leopards, barking deer, rhesus macaque and feature endemic species such as the cheer pheasant.

The forests of the Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates are prime habitat for leopards

Interestingly, the Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates initially belonged to the British East India Company and were managed as Tea Estates. From the late 1800s to the 1900s the estates changed ownership several times with a substantial 1,100+ acres landing with Rev. David Albert Chowfin.  It soon became clear though that the forests were suffering from illegal development activities in certain areas in violation of the forest and environmental laws of the country.  Some of these activities include unsanctioned road construction, illegal dumping of garbage, and land encroachment meaning humans are building houses and tending agricultural lands further and further within the Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates forest. With the expansion of unchecked human activities in the forest, it became clear that something would need to happen to protect and conserve the wildlife.

A Conservation Hero Emerges

To put a halt to this activities, local citizen and wildlife researcher Subir Chowfin filed a complaint in 2006 to the Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) in Pauri. Unfortunately, neither the Land Revenue Department nor the local forest department chose to take any action. In response, Subir took even greater action and filed a public interest litigation before the National Green Tribunal in the nation’s capital, New Delhi.

Subir and his mother Christine worked for ten years to save the forests of the Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estates from illegal human activities, home to rhesus monkeys among other wildlife

After nearly a decade long battle with different agencies, Subir along with his mother Christine Chowfin finally achieved results. The National Green Tribunal ordered that all non-forest activities be stopped on 450 hectares of the Estates. The Tribunal also ordered the state government of  Uttarakhand to declare the 450 hectares as either reserve forest/protected forest or private forest.

Landscape of Gadoli Fee Simple Estate

From Protecting Forests to Building Conservation Programs

Through the Gadoli and Manda Khal Wildlife Conservation Trust set up to support the forest, Subir works to preserve and protect the wildlife in the Estates by pursuing a long list of fascinating activities such as supporting field wildlife research projects and developing educational programs for the local community and school children. The Trust also established a sustainable agricultural program that helps promote the environmental and ecological benefits of organic farming. Furthermore, as part of their agriculture program, the Trust employs women from the hill regions of  Uttarakhand providing them with regular, stable salaries. Subir believes programs like these help to involve the community as a whole within the process of conservation and gives them a reason to preserve these forests.

Stunning landscape of The Gadoli and Manda Khal Fee Simple Estate

 From reading about Heroes to becoming one yourself 

Inspired by Subir’s story to take action? Please click on the button below to make a pledge today to take a conservation action – actions that range from sharing Subir’s story socially to help spread the word further to donating to his nonprofit organization that protects these forests! Or maybe you are a recent graduate or scientists that sees the Estates as an incredible opportunity to dig into Indian wildlife research and conservation work. No matter your interest, every action matters.  Please make a pledge today! 

Take Action

Subir's wish list button

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