Staff Profile Of The Month: Puja Deb

December 4, 2023 | By Natasha Ashok
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Meet dynamic and effervescent Puja Deb, the Team Lead of Resource Mobilisation and Events at Wildlife SOS. Puja fervently carries out significant responsibilities of her role, tackling every extraordinary challenge with what seems like a breeze.

An embodiment of optimism, Puja actively hosts conservation events and awareness sessions across various schools, colleges, and corporations. Leading revenue generating teams at Wildlife SOS, she not only forms relationships with supporters, but she also excels in creating lasting bonds with them. Her infectious enthusiasm ensures that every engagement with her is memorable. Her supreme confidence and steadfast determination towards the field of wildlife conservation are what spark a lively motivation among her team members.
In this month’s Staff Profile, let’s get to know Puja better!

Puja Deb leads the team of Resource Mobilisation and Events at Wildlife SOS. [Photo © Wildlife SOS]
  • Your journey into wildlife conservation started later in your professional career. What made you make the switch to this field?

I graduated from Assam University in Zoology and moved to the teaching profession. I never knew I could ignite my passion in the field of wildlife until I came across this course named Masters’ in Wildlife Biology at Bharathidasan University in Tamil Nadu. Without a single doubt in my mind, I opted for this course and successfully completed two beautiful, wild years of my life with flying colours!

Switching careers at any age isn’t easy. But with passion, drive, and commitment, it could be a walk in the park. In my case, I have always had a lifelong love of animals, but never knew how to make that into a meaningful career. Thankfully, I had good seniors who guided me well in this aspect, and that played a key role in the huge jump in my career. I also started looking on social media for advice and found groups of other aspiring and current conservationists sharing resources and contacts. This really gave me an insight into the various fields that exist in wildlife conservation.

Puja conducts several awareness sessions at the BBRC centre among volunteers from various corporates. [Photo © Wildlife SOS]
  • Despite having a background in Wildlife Biology, what prompted you to take up a role in acquiring resources?

Resource Mobilisation officers are the backbone of any organisation or entity. I have done fieldwork and have realised that the wildlife sector receives the least attention and funds possible. I struggled for funds during my field days, and this was a turning point in my thought process. There is a huge gap in the field of conservation due to a lack of funding and support from the community. Conservation, in general, requires a dedicated workforce and a lot of substantial effort to keep the story going. Having good human resources is directly proportional to having sufficient funds. Inspired and dedicated to flora and fauna, I switched myself to this field for the ultimate betterment of these innocent, voiceless friends. Moreover, I love connecting people to good causes because I know it makes them feel really good to give to a cause they care about. I’m constantly surrounded by the most interesting people who are really engaged in making the world a better place. Luckily, Wildlife SOS came to me like an opportunity hard to miss.

Puja and team at a Clean-up drive event organised on Wildlife day 2023
On Wildlife Day 2023, Puja and her team organised a collaborative Clean-up Drive, bringing together various stakeholders and volunteers to contribute to the cause. [Photo © Wildlife SOS/Ramesh K]
  • Why do you think awareness sessions conducted in schools and colleges are important?

It is of utmost importance that we educate kids and develop a sense of empathy in them for animals. It is crucial that we introduce them to the issue of human-wildlife conflict at an early stage of their lives, for only then can we raise sufficient awareness among them. My team conducts competitions, dramas, skits, and hands-on activities for students so that they learn in the most effective and engaging way possible. Of course, while seeking to acquaint children with these problems, care should be taken to ensure that they are explained in a way that is easily understandable.

  • Is there any experience from your time at Wildlife SOS that you hold close to your heart?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Wildlife SOS faced many heart-wrenching difficulties dealing with both the animals and staff, all at the same time. Raising funds for animals or animal caretakers was a severe problem when the world had come to a standstill and everyone was under the threat of this deadly virus. The pandemic days were my hardest days of fundraising, and I pray that we never get to see those dark days again.

Students at an interactive event at BBRC organised by Puja and her team
Students of Orchid International attended an interactive workshop at the BBRC that was organised by Puja and her team. [Photo © Wildlife SOS/Lenu Kannan]
  • Conducting events requires a great deal of hard work. Among the many organised, which event has been most challenging for you?

I remember an event that was organised in Bangalore. It was an all-day event, which included conducting an awareness session and managing a merchandise stall. The awareness session had gone off without a hitch, but we were really concerned about the merchandise setup. The expected footfall was really low; however, with spirits as high as the sky, we set off. The initial three hours were really dull, and there was not even a single person to talk to. But as soon as lunch time ended, the footfall at the venue started increasing, and people started coming to our stall. They were interested in our merch but most importantly, they were ready to listen to the stories of our animals. So many interested folks came forward to donate for the well-being of our animals and signed up for our Refuse to Ride petition. The event was a total success and a super hit, as we could spread awareness about our projects to over 1,000 people and raise funds for our rescued animals!

  • You are deeply involved with so many different activities. How do you manage to cope up with them with such passion?

A remark that is expressed very often—being passionate is the key to success—is my mantra for life. I worked as a teacher for two years without any sense of passion or compassion for what I did, and the results were obvious. I quit that job. I could not see myself doing something I do not personally feel passionate about for prolonged periods of time. Working for animals and doing something for their welfare keeps me alive and happy. I do not say that I am never stressed or that I never get tired. But when I watch how peacefully our animals sleep or indulge in playtime at our care centres, I get super charged up and motivated. I like taking on multiple responsibilities at a time because this gives me pleasure and a sense of accomplishment. There are numerous challenges to this, but such is my preparedness for it. My passion is my priority, and my priority is to save our animals.

Puja at the Wildlife SOS Elephant centre
Puja is a compassionate wildlife enthusiast, and treasures the affectionate bonds she shares with animals under our care. [Photo © Wildlife SOS]
  • How would you describe your experience of working with Wildlife SOS?

I have worked at the Bannerghatta Bear Rescue Centre (BBRC) in Bangalore and visited the Agra Bear Rescue Facility (ABRF) in Agra, the Elephant Care and Conservation Centre (ECCC) in Mathura, and the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre (MLRC) in Maharashtra. All these centres give me a feeling of relief and satisfaction with the kind of job I do. These animals are my sole inspiration and the reason why I am so attached to the cause. When I see the eyes of the animals, I feel love and affection. I spent three years working at BBRC, and I am in absolute awe of the sloth bears that reside there. The lush greens of Bannerghatta Forest and the furry sloth bears of our centre have truly won me over!

  • Among all the animals at our centres, do you have a special favourite?

Can there be two favourites? If yes, it has to be my boy, Odum, and my girl, Arya. Odum is the smallest living sloth bear in the world and is my source of happiness forever. I lovingly call him “Odomos” and always make it a point to check in on him during my visits to BBRC. Arya, on the other hand, arrived at our elephant centre in Mathura at the same time I joined Wildlife SOS. She was the first animal I raised resources for, and ever since then, she has been very close to my heart. I see her blossoming health as a direct sign of my success here at Wildlife SOS.

Odum, one of the many sloth bears rescued by Wildlife SOS
Odum is a vivacious sloth bear at BBRC, and has found a special place in Puja’s heart. [Photo © Wildlife SOS/Ramesh K]
  • Is there anything you would like to say to our readers?

The only message I have for our readers is this: Please, please, build compassion and love for all the creatures around you, no matter how insignificant they might seem to anyone else. Every plant and animal, big or small, deserves love and respect. It is important for everyone to raise their voices against animal cruelty and animal torture. It might sound cliche, but animals are truly a gift from above, for they truly define the words ‘unconditional love’.

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