As we wrap up a year with our project, we glance back at some of our favorite memories and humbling takeaways from the field. We have slept under starry skies, learned about hornbill beaks, and tigers; of baby rhinos with poop problems and painted storks. In an honest journalistic attempt, we have explored the people protecting earth’s magnificent beasts, with their strengths and flaws, their messy file cabinets, their lack of training, their shortcuts and motivations stemming from purely the lure of a government job. But what stands out across the expanse of terrain and characters, is their love of beautiful beings – both big and small, striped or spotted, discovered or yet not known. They look out for the other species, let them be, live with giants, pull them out of the bloody clasps of greedy men, build an ark for them, save their homes, and when it gets too late, bury them in the same soil with dignity.
We are grateful that we got to share our work with people who matter most — you, our gracious readers. We put up our first exhibit using giant canvases on the walls of New Delhi’s Jor Bagh metro station, bringing the work of our collaborators as art adorning public spaces. The exhibit ran in partnership with WWF-India, from July 29 to August 10, celebrating forest keepers on the occasion of World Ranger Day.
Then, in November, we were invited to put up an outdoor gallery at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration — an institute laced by history and graced by India’s presidents and prime ministers — from November 19-23 in the coruscating hill ranges of Mussoorie. We interacted with officer trainees from the Indian Administrative Services, Indian Foreign Services, and the Indian Forest Services amongst many others. We shared our learnings from our reporting trips, discussed forest protection as stated by the constitution, as well as the strengths and weakness of government systems, and the importance of solving conflict with village communities in buffer zones.
Our highlight of the year was interacting with school kids from Mussoorie — over 100 effervescent minds belonging to different age groups and different schools — enthralling them with stories of rangers and forest guards sprinkled across various terrains of India. We learned, to our surprise, that only a handful of children had ever visited a national park or seen a tiger in the wild.
For man to be preserver than destroyer, or to even have the consciousness to do so, the next generation needs to know what our green corridors look like. They must experience the thrill of spotting a pugmark or a hornbill nest or a pile of rhino poop. They must know what they stand to lose if the Great Indian Bustard teeters on the brink of extinction. We hope that we have inspired them enough to visit their nearest protected areas soon.
In the end, we would like to thank you for your immense support. Our efforts have been covered by varied publications in India and we have been showered with your messages of encouragement and requests of collaboration for different national parks in the future. We are looking forward to working with more schools and camps to educate young minds and carry forth the message of #RangerRanger.
Thank you to our lovely collaborators - this project is not possible without you.