The People of India Project – Kartick Satyanarayan

Kartick Satyanarayan is a well-known wildlife conservationist, who has been tirelessly involved in wildlife conservation, animal welfare and nature protection for over twenty five years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Wildlife SOS and heads the Wildlife SOS anti- poaching unit, Forest Watch.

Kartick manages Wildlife SOS as CEO and oversees 10 wildlife rescue and rehabilitation facilities for Tigers, bears, leopards, reptiles, birds and elephants. The recent establishment of India’s first Elephant Conservation and Care Centre has resulted in the rescue of 30 elephants to date and, through education initiatives, endeavours to make lasting change in human attitudes and treatment of elephants.

I had heard about and visited the excellent Wildlife SOS long before I was introduced to Kartick one of the founders. They have done and continue to do excellent work, firstly with rescuing the dancing bears from the streets, their initial project, and then with the elephant rescue for which they are also now well-known.  I’m not sure when or who introduced me to Kartick, we have spoken on the phone and I’ve been fortunate to meet him too.  The work that is done at Wildlife SOS is excellent and if there is anyway at all that you can support them in this particularly difficult time, please do.

  1. Who you are (naturally!)

I’m a forest and wildlife lover with a strong addiction to good food and south Indian filter coffee!

  1. What inspired you to create Wildlife SOS?

I’ve always been awestruck by the beauty of the natural and wildlife biodiversity wealth of India and was appalled at the lack of tolerance and the large scale disregard of our rapidly vanishing biodiversity.

The trigger was a series of incidents that included one where I tracked and helped the forest department apprehend a forest criminal (timber smuggler) from a National Park while working there as a wildlife biologist gathering data on wild animals using line transect systems. This incident sparked what eventually became a raging fire inside of me. I was consumed by an urge to do more than just help. I could not stand by and watch any longer and had to be a catalyst, a change maker and use every living moment to help this cause. I just had to make a difference, a real difference in this lifetime!

It was an emergency situation “a real SOS for India’s forests and wildlife” And thus I started Wildlife SOS and co-founded this organisation with Geeta Seshamani who also had a high level of dedication, integrity, compassion and willingness to bring about lasting change to help India’s wildlife.

  1. An anecdote which epitomizes your India?

A family of six people on a scooter with their pet dog is common sight! It proves that God really exists…

  1. One thing that you can’t live without?

My Dogs! & a good cuppa coffee.

  1. One thing that you hate?

People who are not compassionate towards animals.

  1. If you could change one thing about India what would it be?

Lack of cleanliness.

  1. Who is your greatest inspiration?

My parents, friends and animals.

  1. What is your favourite quote?

“Impossible doesn’t exist.”

  1. I have noticed huge changes in India over the last few years but what is the biggest change you have noticed in India over the last 10 years?

Increasing concern for wildlife and forests. Empathy for green causes.

  1. What do you think are the biggest challenges India faces over the next ten years?

Balancing wildlife & forests and so called progress v/s creation of jobs.

  1. Which is the destination at the top of your bucket list?

I think seeing a Jaguar in the tropical wetlands of Pantanal, Brazil definitely tops my list.

  1. What is the one place you visited that you have NO desire to return to?

Amer Fort in Jaipur, Rajasthan where elephants are tortured to give rides to tourists!

  1. Book or Movie?

I would have loved to say books, but over the years I’ve had to settle for Movies as I usually work 19 to 20 hour days. I enjoy what I do so I feel guilty calling it work!

  1. Just for fun! I am doing a survey to find India’s most popular breakfast, what is yours?

Piping hot Bisibele baath! (a spicy south Indian rice curry dish)

  1. In retrospect, what is the one thing you wish you could have told your 20 year-old self?

Nothing! My 20 year old self was already doing whatever it took me to get me here to this place.

Click here for more information on the excellent work that is carried out at Wildlife SOS

A little more about Kartick:

Kartick also heads the Anti-Poaching unit of Wildlife SOS called ‘Forest Watch’ and often goes undercover as a decoy to crack poaching gangs. He is responsible for sending several tiger and elephant poachers to jail.

He is a member of the IUCN Bear Specialist Group (Sloth Bear Team Expert), the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, and an Honorary Wildlife Warden of the Government of NCT Delhi.

He is a TED International Fellow and recipient of the prestigious Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar Award (2010), the Karamveer Puraskar of the Congo Civil Society (2009) and the San Diego Zoo Global Conservation Medal for “Conservation in Action” (2018). He has also been felicitated with The Maharana Udai Singh Award, 2019, for conservation, and community rehabilitation work. He has been an invited speaker at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, the House of Lords in London, Clinton School in the US among others.

Recently Wildlife SOS was recognized by the City of Los Angeles and the State of California for their contribution to Environment and Wildlife Protection in India.

Additionally he has co-published two books- ‘Dancing Bears of India’ and ‘Trade In Bears and Their Parts in India: Threats to Conservation of Bears.

Kartick’s current focus is the mitigation of human-wildlife conflict in India through a series of workshops in bear habitat communities. Educating people about how to avoid animal conflict while fostering an appreciation for wildlife will save human and animal lives and enhance conservation of India’s natural resources.

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