Project Leaders To Tackle Human-Wildlife Conflict In Karnataka
Two young women from a village in Karnataka’s Hunsur taluk have been selected as Project Leaders under the Sanctuary Nature Foundation’s flagship Mud on Boots Project. Sandhya Rani and Marina Juliet are the first women leaders under this programme that has been designed to empower grassroots conservationists in India.
Photo Courtesy: The Gerry Martin Project
Twenty-year-old Sandhya Rani works at the Rathnapuri village dairy cooperative. Every morning and evening she settles down with a register and logs the amount of milk that the village folk bring in. At the other end of the village lives 28-year-old Marina Juliet. Marina spends her mornings with her young child, and in the evening attends computer and accounting classes in the hope that this will help her get a job that will add to the family’s income. Their lives and aspirations would be similar to that of millions of rural women across the country, except for the fact that each day, in between these obligations, Marina and Sandhya don the hats of conservationists.
Working under the guidance of The Gerry Martin Project (TGMP), the duo is being trained to mitigate human-snake conflict and conduct door-to-door surveys to understand the epidemiology of snakebite in India. According to the World Health Organisation, snakebite is considered a Neglected Tropical Disease in the country; and a study conducted in 2011 estimates that snakes bite one million people in India every year! By tackling the issue in a head-on and scientific way, Sandhya and Marina will be making a crucial contribution to human-wildlife conflict mitigation efforts. They’re also working with TGMP Director Chandini Chhabra to introduce environmental education to government schools in the district and will be spearheading a campaign that mobilizes village children to adopt and protect the numerous lakes in the area.
Young, motivated and inspiring, Sandhya and Marina are breaking glass ceilings by entering a field that has been dominated by men. As Gerry Martin, Founder of TGMP and Sanctuary Wildlife Service Award winner, says, “They’re taking the testosterone out of snakebite management and mitigation, which has unfortunately been characterized by poor animal-handling, fear-mongering and unnecessary bravado.”
“Diversity is a priority for us at Sanctuary. When we launched the Mud on Boots Project, we found that only men were being nominated as Project Leaders. We felt this was not indicative of the lack of women in the field, but of the lack of recognition of women in the field. Thus began a concerted effort to unearth women conservationists. We’re very proud to be supporting the work of Marina and Sandhya and are confident of their success under the mentorship of Gerry and Chandini at The Gerry Martin Project,” said Cara Tejpal who heads the Mud on Boots Project for Sanctuary. The funds for Marina and Sandhya’s grant has been made available through the generosity of 241 individuals who donated to a crowdfunding campaign spearheaded by Cara in 2017.
Sanctuary’s Mud on Boots Project is a unique initiative that identifies and empowers conservation heroes by connecting them with mentors, providing a monetary grant and offering other strategic support. To donate to the Mud on Boots Project and empower others like Marina and Sandhya, please write to