‘A Ship in Harbor Is Safe, But that Is Not What Ships Are Built For’
-John A. Shedd-
Anisha is a Nepali girl who believes in simplicity and humanity. She is also a graduate student in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln studying prey selection in migratory birds of prey. She is an avid traveler, tree hugger, nature lover and most importantly a dreamer.
- As a young lady, how did you venture into conservation?
Conservation was not even in a foreseeable career choice for me. Belonging to Asian family means you are meant to be either doctor or engineers. I was brought up in the bustling Kathmandu city, utterly aloof about the wild. So, I always believed in my parent’s belief but little did I know things would take a U-turn. Accidentally, I joined undergrads in forestry and rest is history. I was exposed to various conservation and research projects which eventually immersed me completely. I was lucky enough to get involved in projects related to human-wildlife conflict, animal training, population monitoring, forest carbon inventory, community-based conservation etc which helped me opt for this career path.
- What is the conservation landscape like in Nepal?
Nepal has been actually doing great in the conservation in comparison to many other Asian countries. Community-based conservation approach has contributed significantly to this success. With the active involvement of Nepal, poaching has been controlled, monitoring has been uptight and even generated economic benefits. However, poverty has always been targeted as a tool to influence people in poaching and smuggling many species. Besides, with the increasing population, increasing wildlife and limited resources have posed challenges such as increasing cases of human-wildlife conflict, loss of habitat, degradation etc. With proper solutions, adequate awareness/education, I am absolutely sure that people are very supportive of conservation. I remember during one of the interviews with locals who had been affected by human-wildlife conflict cases, one lady had said which I quote, “We have no problems with these rhinos, elephants, tigers being in the forest. That’s their home. We get angry sometimes as they trouble us a lot and curse them to die but they are like children to us. We curse our children when they trouble us but we love them too. These animals are assets so we don’t want to harm them either but the government should work on stopping these animals from harming us.”
- What are the personal and professional challenges you’ve come across in following this career path?
It may sound boring or monotonous to people but guys, patriarchy is real. Choosing ‘not-for-girls’ kind of field means challenging the society and facing lot of hurdles. But hey, what’s the fun living without challenges. My work requires and also I prefer visiting remote areas for field study. Often times those sites require walking for days with adverse weather, strenuous terrains. In the society, where a woman can’t even travel on her own, I have been constantly questioned my purpose of travel or even rejected just because I am a woman. Moreover, it’s a male-dominated field so you hardly get any women in wildlife conservation and research. Many times, I myself have to discard as the men in the team seems to be very creepy. In addition, women are mostly devoid of mentors as there doesn’t seem to have many women leading the path to guide the future generations. Men can either take advantage or don’t think you are capable enough. Having said that, I also think there are few handfuls of men who genuinely want to help women to explore and flourish.
- What is your career goal and purpose?
I want to pursue further education to develop expertise and share the knowledge to the future generations. Countries like Nepal which is tremendously rich in natural assets is a perfect lab for researchers and aspiring conservationists. I want to contribute towards conservation as much as possible maintaining the balance between natural resources and local people. I love seeing myself as a raptor biologist in the days to come but also would want to work more on behavioral studies as well.Tigers, elephants, rhino and red pandas get a lot of attention and there is nothing wrong in that. However, there are many different creatures that may not get the same attention but are equally important. Following Mahatma Gandhi’s quote, I want to be the change I wish to see in the world.
- You have been travelling quite a bit; in your travels, which one place and culture has taught you the most valuable new lessons?
Traveling has completely transformed me as a person. I think I am becoming a better version of me with every single travel. Well, I have always loved every country I traveled and learn invaluable lessons from the visit. However, exploring many remote areas of my own country has impacted the most in my life. Traveling in Nepal during various field works has inculcated the sense of confidence, acceptance, tolerance and patience. It has provided me the power of perception and this strange strength to defy all the manacles which are hindering me from my passion. Besides, an amazing experience of being a trainee at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary was the feat of inspiration for me. It was a wonderful platform to exchange educational and cultural differences literally east meets west scenario. This program played as an avenue for me to learn about raptor migration and conservation efforts.
- What is the future of conservation in Nepal and your region?
For conservation, we need to broaden our mindset. Nepal provides a perfect lab for great studies of discovery. However, lack of proper guidance, lack of expertise and skill discourages many aspiring young conservationists. This field hardly got much attention in the past. Lately, there has been an increment in the number of young people towards conservation which is quite encouraging. We need to not only improve the quantity but quality of the people who can contribute to the further conservation works. We may not be equipped but our land is full of biodiversity many of which are yet to be discovered. It is my personal aim, to pave way for the younger generation females who share the similar passion and want to follow their dreams in this male-dominated field of study.