Wildlife SOS celebrated a Wildlife Week in collaboration with the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department at the Van Vihar National Park, Bhopal, from October 1 to October 7, 2014; an effort by the Delhi based non-charity organization to sensitize the people of Bhopal about the diverse wildlife they co-exist with.
The State Forest Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Dr Gaurishankar Shezwar, inaugurated the seven day event in the presence of the Director, Van Vihar National Park, Mr B P S Parihar and Assistant Director, Mr. Sudhesh Vaghmare. The objective of the event was to discuss mitigation strategies for Madhya Pradesh as there is an abundance of wildlife living in close vicinity of humans.
However the center of attraction was the Wildlife SOS stall organized by Rakhee Sharma, the Kalandar Rehabilitation Coordinator and Dr. Sanio Johnson, the Veterinary Officer and Center Head at the Van Vihar Bear Rehabilitation Center located within the premises of the Van Vihar National Park. Exquisite merchandise was put on display – all hand made products by the Kalandar community. Hundreds of visitors poured in at the Wildlife SOS stall on the very first day, astonished pleasantly to witness the colossal amount of work Wildlife SOS has done to protect the wildlife. From seven in the morning to 5:30 in the evening, the Wildlife SOS team was busy attending to them and explaining to people the Sloth bear rescue stories, rehabilitation of the Kalandar Community and the skill development programs for
the Kalandar women; encouraging a more independent lifestyle for the Kalandar women as second income earners. The photo collage on Wildlife SOS’s backdrop explained the genesis of the Kalandar Rehabilitation program amply.
On the second day of this event the Wildlife SOS stall was full of enthusiastic visitors who were engrossed in listening to the ‘Education and Awareness Programme’ run by Wildlife SOS for Kalandar children, all of whom now go to school and have their fees paid by Wildlife SOS. Even the books and uniforms for these children are sponsored by the organization.
A Rangoli competition was held for school children on the third day with the theme being anything related to Wildlife. A large number of children participated in the competition, creating colorful patterns alongside the entrance road of the National Park. But the show was stolen by the Rangolis made by the Kalandar girls. Their richly imaginative Rangolis were the first public impression of their colourful thoughts.
“Seven years have passed since I started working with the Kalandar Community. I knew that after the rescue of the ‘Dancing Bears’ it was important to rehabilitate these men. We at Wildlife SOS started from scratch trying to win the trust of this community and today when we see these children at school doing well, we grow really emotional. The Kalandar community is amongst one of the most backward communities of the country. Our Education and Awareness program for the Kalandar children is now showing results,” said Rakhee Sharma as she admired the Rangolis made by the Kalandar girls.
Quite a few Kalandar families from Bhopal and the outskirts ventured to come to the event. More than 40 children showed up with their parents and enjoyed the programme.
Documentaries were screened on the fifth and sixth days of the event and by the end Wildlife SOS was flooded with a lot volunteering requests.
Geeta Seshmani, CO-Founder at Wildlife SOS, explained, “We always encourage such events as we want people to become aware of the real nature of the man-animal conflicts. Any resolution to this issue must involve the community through practical strategies and education. That was how we dealt with the cruelty of ‘Dancing Bears’ practice – by giving the community a life of dignity and alternative livelihoods and taking the bears to a habitat center as natural as possible.
The seventh, the last day of the event, was followed by the closing ceremony with the State Assembly Speaker, Mr. Sitasharan Sharma as the Guest of Honor. During the closing ceremony, Wildlife SOS was appreciated warmly by Mr. Sharma for their work. A special presentation was given by Wildlife SOS, followed by a documentary. The State Forest Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Dr. Gaurishankar Shezwar, also commended Wildlife SOS, “This organization has done a real good job. I am greatly impressed by the amount of hard work the Wildlife SOS team invests in saving the Wildlife of India, and their holistic approach to wildlife issues.”