Wildlife education should be done in schools: Valmik Thapar (IANS Interview)

New Delhi, Jan 13 (IANS) Apart from reinforcing the benefits of public-private partnership and adopting an inclusive approach towards wildlife in India, tiger conservationist and naturalist Valmik Thapar strongly feels that focussing on this much-ignored subject in schools would introduce children to the wonderful world of the animal kingdom. What would start as a hobby could become a career option in later years.

“There is much less emphasis on matters that concern wildlife in schools. There are no great chapters that discuss this in text books for children,” the widely-respected Thapar, who has authored 14 books and produced a range of TV programmes, told IANS in an interview.
“We need to bring it much more into the limelight as it is anywhere else in the world. Apart from this, there is a greater need for India to have all kinds of courses in wildlife. Presently there are a mere four to six universities offering wildlife biology at the masters level,” added Thapar, whose works have been aired on channels like National Geographic, BBC, Discovery and Animal Planet.
The burly, 62-year-old has always been vocal about issues that have hindered the growth of Indian wildlife and poor government decisions that have derailed the process of converting it into a profitable sector that could possibly have attracted foreign tourists and set an example of offering a fine balance between nature and man.
Thapar admitted that a battle he has waged for 40 years has led to many defeats, especially the non-caring approach of previous governments towards this sector whose potential he claims hasn’t yet been tapped.
“Governments have no vision in this (wildlife) area. They are completely deficient and haven’t looked at it as an open area, unlike other sectors where they are thinking of public-private partnerships (PPPs) to push development,” Thapar said.
“Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case with wildlife. Business and industry have been asked to participate in several sectors, why not wildlife? This kind of engagement should happen in the wildlife sector with the aim to have inclusive approach,” he added.
Lack of understanding among forest officials about streamlining the system and managing zoos; multiple loopholes in the management and outlook of the Indian Forest Service; absence of the young blood in the forest department and his own suggestions falling on deaf years has frustrated Thapar umpteen times, but each time he has got up and penned a book to preserve his knowledge for the coming generations.
Thapar’s latest offering is “Wild Fire” (Aleph), the second in a trilogy that began with the acclaimed “Tiger Fire”, while the third would be “Wind Fire”. But for someone who is known for his extensive work in tiger preservation – he had established the Ranthambore Foundation in 1987 along with an NGO to connect all those who wanted to save tigers – this book comes as a surprise.
“Majorly I have covered tigers, but other areas were equally important for me. So were birds. I went to libraries around the world to know their history and narrative. And I found out that there was enough narrative just on birds. So there was enough information to make these books interesting,” Thapar said.
While the last book of the trilogy is in its final lap, Thapar has already started working on another book which he calls as “Real Solutions”. It would be without pictures and would focus on 80 important issues that have stagnated the development of wildlife.
“These different topics would reflect upon a problem and offer solutions. And I have pointed out issues like accountability, answerability, the single law, the division of the ministry (of environment and forests) and disbanding the Indian Forest Service and turning it into state-specific forest services,” said Thapar.
(Shilpa Raina can be contacted at shilpa.r@ians.in)