Gargi Sharma: Developing Wildlife Conservation Interventions in India
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hey, friends! It's Spiffy, back again on Planet Earth with an eye on changemaking leaders making the world a more equitable place! I have another great interview for you this week. Today, I’m excited to cruise around with Gargi Sharma, project manager at the Wildlife Conservation Society-India. Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Gargi! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through your organization?
Gargi: Glad to be with you, Spiffy! I work as a project manager with the Counter Wildlife Trafficking project of WCS-India. I broadly develop conservation interventions to address illegal wildlife trade (IWT) that happens at and through the northeast region of India. This region falls under the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot and is home to several commercially sought after species, many of which are endemic! IWT brings with itself several critical issues such as local extirpations of species, introduction of zoonosis, threat to national security, etc. I work in partnerships with relevant stakeholders such as enforcement agencies, local communities, and educators to raise the profile of IWT, to build their capacity to counter IWT, and develop research to better understand IWT.
Spiffy: Fascinating! Tell me more. What motivates you to tackle this challenge?
Gargi: In one sentence, the responsibility that I owe to my planet and fellow citizens keeps me going. Of course, I have a deep respect for nature, which is why I chose working as a conservation practitioner. As I read more and interact with people, I realized that through my work I could empower people who are most vulnerable due to changes in the environment to advocate for environmental justice. I envision a world where people and nature are empowered by each other. This truly keeps me going. Of course, like most people, I also run out of motivation at times, but seeing a bird on a balcony, or a moth on a bulb, or hearing people talk about their experiences in nature gets me on track again.
Spiffy: I love that. How else would you describe the impact of your work?
Gargi: First and foremost, my work helps wildlife! All that we do is to reduce IWT and to conserve wildlife and ecosystems. If wildlife is not poached for IWT, the survival chances of the species increase as some anthropogenic pressure is taken off. My work also focuses on developing the capacity of frontline staff to tackle IWT. Living in remote locations and on low wages, these guys do a thankless job of conserving our wildlife. We work closely with them and help them get basic amenities such as shoes, rain gear, winter clothes, and water filters to improve their work conditions. These guys are critical agents of change who spread the message of conservation to communities.
Spiffy: Outstanding impact! Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Gargi: It is important to note that not all poachers are evil, bad people. There are many reasons as to why a person might indulge in poaching and these can range from desperation for food, money, or social insecurity broadly. In order for people to conserve wildlife and ecosystems, we must empower them. That is why it is very important to have empathy and have environmental justice be a value that guides your work.
Spiffy: I agree with you—empathy and environmental justice are very important. Thanks for speaking with me today, Gargi—it’s been an honor!
Gargi Sharma is project manager at the Wildlife Conservation Society-India. She is a conservation practitioner, who believes in empowering people to conserve wildlife and ecosystems. She works in the North East Region of India. While Gargi is an admirer of all wildlife, she is absolutely fascinated by butterflies, moths, and birds. Gargi also loves to cook and incorporates different ingredients from all over the country in her dishes. (First published on the Ladderworks website on April 14, 2023.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Lindsey Brannon. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.