Aaliya Mir is the Education Officer for Wildlife SOS in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. She leads a team of people working to reduce the amount of human/wildlife conflicts that occurs in the region. She got started with her work in 2007 when there was a bear burnt alive and dragged through the streets. This horrifying display of brutality led her to take the initiative to do something to help the threatened and misunderstood wildlife in her community. We hope you enjoy this interview with this bold and proactive member of Wildlife SOS.
Please tell me what you do for WSOS?
Like many of the other states in India, man-animal conflict in the state of Jammu and Kashmir has gotten worse in recent times. There is an ongoing unabated war between humans and wildlife for space and food. I share the same philosophy as Wildlife SOS that this conflict can be effectively reduced by educating the people and spreading awareness on wildlife and working to change the attitudes of people. I work really hard to help people realize the importance of the environment and to inspire them to participate in the process of working to improve and protect it. To achieve these goals I lead a team to organize education and awareness programs in schools, colleges and other vital community locations. I also organize capacity building workshops for different stake holders and help in facilitating interactive programs between wildlife officials and the people.
What are some of the unique challenges you face in your current role?
Working toward changing the attitudes of the local people is not easy, especially when the goal is to get people interested in saving wild animals that have historically been damaging to their property or threatening to their wellbeing. Interactions can turn ugly which indeed is a difficult challenge to handle. Also, the working conditions in a place like Kashmir, which can have hostile weather, difficult terrain and a fragile political situation makes things challenging in my role.
What do you hope to accomplish in your role with WSOS?
I have a very ambitious goal. I would like people to learn to live in harmony or at the very least tolerate the local wildlife. This is the only way to effectively tackle the problems existing between man and wildlife.
How did you get interested in helping wildlife?
I donâ€™t have any previous experience of working with wildlife, but I have worked before helping animals before joining Wildlife SOS. My interest in helping wildlife has grown and today I enjoy my work to its fullest.
What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
I have two kids which are my top priority. I spend time with them answering their questions which most of the time are beyond my thinking capacity.
Tell us a little bit about some of your childrenâ€™s programs.
Programs for children are a bit tricky to organize but they are very rewarding. You have to come to their level of understanding and talk in a way they understand so they can associate it with their surroundings. We also have to be sure that the message we want to deliver is loud and clear. Every chance is provided to children for them to express their ideas in the form of paintings, lectures and essays. Their paintings and ideas are so filled with messages that if acted upon can help to mitigate the conflict situations with the wildlife to a large extent. Our awareness and education programs bring them closer to nature and therefore, they realize what they possess in terms of the natural heritage. Hopefully they begin to value it and see a need to pass on to future generations.
What is one of your most rewarding experiences at WSOS?
It is very rewarding when someone after a presentation comes forward from the crowd and promises that they wonâ€™t cause any damage to nature or pledges to not harm any wild animal.
What would you like people to know about wildlife in the state of Jammu and Kashmir?
Jammu and Kashmir is very rich in biodiversity. It is very unfortunate that people here donâ€™t value its importance. I would like people to know that there are many different species of wildlife living here thatâ€™s survival hinges on finding a healthy balance between peopleâ€™s interests and the ecosystem.