A determined conservationist at 13 to receive Sanctuary Wildlife Award

Jyoti Sharma, a budding playwright who writes plays on conservation issues, also uses her oratorical skills when it comes to explaining the richness of forests

Mumbai: At 13, naturalist Jyoti Sharma has broken all barriers to be counted among the recipients of the annual Sanctuary Wildlife Awards given to all the bravehearts who work selflessly to protect wildlife and the natural habitats of India.

The spunky teenager who was in Mumbai to receive the award at a grand function on Friday told Gulf News, that she fell deeply in love with nature, all the flora and fauna that the forests held when she participated in a Kids for Tigers programme of Sanctuary Nature Foundation in Ranthambore, a national park, near Jaipur, Rajasthan.

“All living creatures big and small in the forests are our friends, even the tiger which I have seen several times in the forests and in my village which is on the boundary of the national park,” says the diminutive teenager. She has been learning all about plants and animals that are regularly spotted along nature trails conducted by programme coordinator Goverdhan Meena and in no time she took charge to lead students from her school, JSM Public School, Sawai Madhopur, into the fascinating world of wilderness.

With her principal’s support, she now conducts trails for other schools from the locality, some which see attendance by teachers as well. A budding playwright who writes plays on conservation issues, Jyoti also has oratorical skills when it comes to explaining the richness of forests. She also stresses, “I am not afraid of wildlife. Sometimes, we see tigers when on a nature walk with other students. All we have to do is stand still till the tiger walks away. At times, tigers also come into our village. That is when the village elders inform the forest rangers who tranquillise the tigers that are then taken away in cages to the forest.”

Jyoti is determined that when she leaves school and goes for higher studies, it will definitely be in the field of wildlife and forest conservation.

Bittu Sahgal, well-known environmentalist and founding editor of Sanctuary Asia, says that at a time when it is the need of the hour to save forests, “we have to support young naturalists like Jyoti.” He also praised young journalist Tongam Rina, associate editor of The Arunachal Times who was shot outside her office in Itanagar in 2012, her office ransacked and had received death threats because of constant writings on issues concerning the environment, especially the hydro-power projects and the vast network of roads that meant destruction of forests.

This year, Sanctuary’s Lifetime Service Award will go to Valmik Thapar who “has spent the past two decades leading conservation battles at every level imaginable,” says Sahgal. “He has served on over 150 committees of both central and state governments. His influence has been expansive. Unfortunately, he cannot be here today as his father-in-law, the late actor Shashi Kapoor, passed away. Shashi was also a great supporter of conservation.”

The 18th Wildlife Awards, supported by DSP Blackrock Mutual Funds and IndusInd Bank, will be held at the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai on December 8, 2017.

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