Meeting the Founders of Wildlife SOS India
I've been volunteering with Wildlife SOS since 2007, doing online marketing work and a bit of fundraising and publicity for the organization. My first wildlife charity party took place in London, with all proceeds going straight to WSOS (see my previous blog about bear parties). Kartick and Geeta and the rest of their organization have single-handedly taken on the "dancing bear" issue in India and, through a variety of means have rescued every last dancing bear from the streets. These bears, too mutilated to be released back into the wild, are housed in 4 separate rescue center facilities throughout India. The organization has provided the families who owned the dancing bears with alternative, legal livelihoods, such as sewing businesses for the women and convenience stores for the men. As the comical Kartick so fervently worded it in his presentation last night, people in India go out and drink and then want a snack, which is provided by some of these convenient stores we've set up; so we cater to drunk people - but hey, it helps the bears, so it's okay.
A member of the community provided with an alternative livelihood as a rickshaw driver, copyright, WSOS.
Wildlife SOS also believes in the power of education, and helps fund schooling for children and families in the community.
In addition to all of these accomplishments, they also do 24/7 wildlife rescue, have purchased land for habitat conservation, and have been working to successfully reduce poaching and wildlife trade. They are also working to build an elephant sanctuary, much like those for the bears. This is why it was such an honor to meet them in person.
Kartick kept us laughing all night, and with Geeta, the more softspoken of the duo, I discussed sustainable feeding projects for the bears at the sanctuaries. After hearing how many pounds of honey each bear required daily, I thought it would be a great idea to get some of the locals into bee-raising, providing a source of honey for the bears as well as a lifestyle for the family. Geeta told me she and Kartick had been thinking along these lines and also explained their plans for growing their own grain for the bears. As most of the bears' teeth have been violently pulled or broken by the former owners, the bears consist on a mushy diet of cooked grains. If the grains were grown by locals, this would save a good amount of money for the organization.
We then discussed ways to expand the UK branch of the organization, as I was there in 2008 to help get it started. So now I have some networking and some thinking to do, but I'm proud to contribute to the work of two of the most awesome people on this planet. They truly have given their hearts to the wilderness of this world, and I aspire to acheive a fraction of what they have accomplished. Thank you, Wildlife SOS.
Kartick, Geeta and I, with Nikki from the US office.
If you are interested in donating to or volunteering with Wildlife SOS, please visit their website at www.wildlifesos.org for details.