Aaliya Mir is the backbone of all of the Wildlife SOS programs based in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. She has been involved with the organization since 2007. She leads a team of people who work to reduce the human/wildlife conflict in the region. Whether she is organizing marches, educating students or conducting awareness seminars, she is a busy lady. When asked about her passion for wildlife, she says, “Wildlife always fascinated me since childhood but the plight of wildlife in Jammu & Kashmir state actually got me involved to work for the interest of wildlife.” Aaliya’s hobbies include reading, but she hardly gets time to read as her commitment to work and her two kids keep her busy.
Baiju Raj M.V.
Baiju Raj has been handling snakes and other wild animals since the age of 2. He is known at WSOS as the man who would go to the ends of the earth to save wildlife. He has been associated with WSOS since 2005 and is currently the Director Conservation Projects and is based at the Wildlife SOS Agra Bear Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. He is also a Member IUCN -SSC Crocodile Specialist Group and is responsible for coordinating all of the wildlife rescue teams that operate in India and oversees all projects. When asked to reflect upon his experience with Wildlife SOS he says, “[It has been] Challenging, [I am] motivated and open to do new innovative things here every day and proud to be a part of this organization which takes care of thousands of suffering animals.” His hobbies include playing all sorts of sports.
Dr. Ajay Deshmukh
Dr. Ajay is our Senior Veterinary Officer based at the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Center in Maharashtra. A true daredevil, he has rescued many leopards and doesn’t hesitate to climb down into wells or enter caves when it comes to saving animals. His commitment to educational programs is reflected in his working to spread awareness in schools and by his conducting training camps to prepare state policemen and forest guards to handle man-wildlife conflicts. He has been associated with Wildlife SOS since 2009 and describes his experience thus far as “blissful”! When not on duty, Dr. Ajay enjoys acting, listening to his favorite Marathi songs and he has developed into an excellent photographer. To alleviate stress, he can be seen playing around with Bhima, the leopard with whom he shares a special bond.
Dr. Arun A. Sha
With numerous publications to his name and often invited to global conferences abroad, Dr. Arun is our Director of Veterinary Research & Operations based out of the Banerghatta Bear Rescue Center, Bangalore. He has been working with our rescued bears, elephants and leopards for the past 12 years. Calm and composed by nature, he is always the first person to be contacted when anyone finds themselves in a fix! Dr. Arun’s calendar is filled with meetings, reviewing of veterinary research proposals, inspections across the states of the veterinary standards of the facilities as well as providing veterinary and surgical advice and training to the team. In his free time, Dr. Arun enjoys reading books and listening to all kinds of music.
Dr. S. Ilayaraja
Our Senior Veterinary Officer and Surgeon at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility, Dr. Ilayaraj has been associated with WSOS since February 2004. He has devoted himself to learning as much as possible about the world of wildlife medicine. Apart from our rescued bears, he has treated snakes, elephants, tigers, hyenas and dogs. Dr. Ilayaraja has attended various global conferences and presented several veterinary medical papers based upon his findings through his work in treating rescued ‘dancing’ bears and elephants. When asked if he is attached to any specific bear he responds, “There is a blind bear by the name of Ganesha who is very special to me. He is a gentle giant and very calm and diplomatic. Although he is blind, I believe his is content with his life and I enjoy watching him and being around him.”
Harshad trained with GSPCA in Vadodra for almost 5 years before joining the Wildlife SOS Rescue team in 2007. After a brief gap, he returned in 2011 to lead our Rescue Team as the Coordinator for Delhi NCT. Harshad has always been passionate about animal welfare and wildlife conservation. He recalls being fascinated with snakes and other reptiles in his early childhood. He has handled some of the most dangerous snake species in the world including the Cobra and Russell’s viper. When he is not running to the rescue of a wild animal in distress, he enjoys cooking and honing his photography skills.
Jagat Bahadur is our most senior accountant head and has been associated with Wildlife SOS since 2005. He can always be seen running to and fro from the banks and in-between meetings all day long but the smile on his face never seems to fade! He travels to all the centers for internal audits and checks. He describes his experience with Wildlife SOS as being fulfilling and shares that he would like to do more for conservation. Jagat has a special fondness for dogs and says, “They are the most reliable creatures in this world I feel. They love you without any conditions.” When he is not balancing the books at WSOS he likes to watch movies and travel.
Mahendra Balu Dhore
A man with a lot of compassion for big wild cats, Mahendra Dhore is our Veterinary Assistant based at the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Center. A former employee of the Forest Department and Rescue Center, Dhore worked as a volunteer for 2 years before joining the Wildlife SOS family in 2009. He has rescued many leopards, hyenas and Sambar deer during anti-poaching drives. He shares a special bond with Michael, one of our rescued leopards at MLRC. His hobbies include travelling to snow-caped mountains and valleys.
Rakhee Sharma has the brightest smile. She is our Kalandar Rehabilitation Coordinator and has been associated with Wildlife SOS since 2006. The progress that has been made with the Kalandar community has been made possible in part due to Rakhee’s diligent efforts and outreach. Her day starts early, usually around 5 AM and she doesn’t stop until almost midnight. With a double Masters in Political Science and Hindi Literature, a B.Ed and M.Ed along with a degree in Journalism, Rakhee can easily be called the ‘Jack Of All Trades’. Working closely with over 3000 families and monitoring 30 villages over four states, she patiently deals with everyone and considers herself as a member of the community of families she supports, sharing their sorrows and joys. Rakhee has a soft spot for street dogs and is always willing to indulge them with treats and play and interrupts her field work often to resume injured bulls or hit and run pups.
Tahir G. Ayoub
Tahir worked as a volunteer with Wildlife SOS for three years while he completed his post-graduate studies in science at Kashmir University. He officially joined Wildlife SOS in 2012. Presently he works as a Project Coordinator and is based in Jammu & Kashmir state. His main area of study and expertise is mitigation of man-wildlife conflict. When asked if he is attached to any specific animal, he says, “There is not any one particular animal I care for, as I love them all, but let me admit that in these years if there is any animal that I’m interested in, it’s the Black Bear. My favorite is Julie! She is the youngest female bear at Dachigam Rescue Center. She is quiet but the most whimsical of all the bears and does really unusual things showing she has a vivid inventive mind.”
Lavanya Raju joined Wildlife SOS in June 2015 as the Director of Finance and Admin. Prior to joining Wildlife SOS, she spent 10 years helping save the lives of dogs and cats through her work at the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Best Friends Animal Society. Previously a CPA and a marketing manager, Lavanya was able to use her business skills to help other rescues and shelters with national programs designed to increase the number of lives they saved. She has admired the work of Wildlife SOS since she learned about the organization in 2005 and visited one of the bear sanctuaries in 2006.
In 2005, Nikki oversaw the creation of the non-profit organization Wildlife SOS USA. The mission of the organization is to provide support to the work being done in India by Wildlife SOS. After serving as President of the Wildlife SOS USA board for several years, she moved into her current capacity as Executive Director. She has traveled throughout India and her focus, in tandem with that of Wildlife SOS, has expanded beyond the eradication of the ‘dancing’ bear practice to include work with Asiatic elephants and leopards. In addition to her efforts with Wildlife SOS USA, Nikki spent more than a decade working with Best Friends Animal Society developing programs to help end the killing of dogs and cats in shelters.