In order to ensure the success of any conservation effort it is absolutely essential to have the cooperation and more so the active support of communities affected by the protection of a species or habitat. Wildlife SOS firmly believes that to save bears and other endangered species in India we need the support of the millions of people who live in and around wildlife habitats and depend on them for their survival – and we can only gain this support if we respect, understand and are sensitive to their needs and aspirations.
In 2002, Wildlife SOS started work on the rehabilitation of the Kalandar communities (originally Muslim gypsies with a highly nomadic lifestyle were famous for their mastery over animals) through education and an alternative livelihood program as an extension of the dancing bear rescue project. Over the years working with these communities, living in their villages, we had gained their trust. By empowering them to earn incomes (through dignified and legal means) and improve their living standards, we had shown our commitment to providing them a life of quality. Over 3,000 families spread out through six states and over 15 villages; have received support to become economically self-sufficient over a period of 12 years.
Our substantial efforts have helped us in bringing a significant part of the community into the mainstream. Encouraging the community to accept alternate means of earning and has contributed towards pulling them out of the regressive cycle of poverty, illiteracy, child marriages and exploitation. Their overall living standard has improved as well.