Well known filmmaker and conservationist Shekar Dattari shares his knowledge and experience in wildlife conservation in a chat with KASTURI RAMANATHAN
Fascinated by fauna, enchanted by the environment and bewitched by the biosphere, Shekar Dattatri, entered this adventurous field at the age of 13. He began his journey by interning at a snake park under the watchful eyes of Rom Whitaker. The friends he made there showed him the nuances of the vocation. And now he has come a long way – making it big as a wildlife filmmaker and conservationist.
According to him, by sitting in the back row in class and reading wildlife books all day, he learnt far more than from the boring textbooks. “Truth about Tigers”, his recent documentary, depicts the agony that our national pride faces. He has been actively involved with many NGOs, campaigns and movements that work for preserving the natural heritage.
Who or what was your inspiration/role model?
Nature itself has been my greatest inspiration from the beginning. But during the last 36 years, I’ve also drawn inspiration from authors like Gerald Durrell and Jim Corbett and field biologists such as George Schaller, Jane Goodall and Ullas Karanth, besides many conservationists and filmmakers.
How has ‘wildlife conservation’ changed you as a person?
It has taught me that there are no quick fixes to complex issues and that you have to sometimes persevere for years before achieving the desired result. Above all, it has taught me that it is important to take a stand on issues that one believes in, rather than sit on the fence and hope that someone, somewhere will do something to solve the problem.
What is your fitness secret/regime?
I stay away from junk food, avoid overeating and go for a brisk one-hour walk every day.
Did your family accept this unusual profession? Did you face pressure to follow a profession like say doctor/engineer?
My family has always been very supportive of my interests. Soon after I finished my twelfth, there was a suggestion from my father to take up a ‘regular’ subject and pursue wildlife as a hobby, but there was no pressure when I chose to do otherwise.
On hindsight, which course do you think would have helped you now?
On hindsight, I wonder if I should have even wasted those years in school and college, where I learnt very little of use in my life!
In what way will knowing about tigers make people preserve them?
Knowledge is the key to solving any problem. Without knowledge people can only get emotional about saving tigers. But once they know the facts, they can try and figure out how they can contribute to their conservation in a meaningful way.
You are on the National Board for Wildlife chaired by the Prime Minister. What work do you do on this panel? Are your methodologies in preserving the environment and the government’s views compatible? Is it achievable?
Not all the Members of the National Board for Wildlife are assigned specific roles. Those who don’t have a specific role have to see how they can contribute, and take the initiative in doing so. This is a voluntary post and not a full time role.As for approaches to conservation problems, sometimes one is in agreement with the government and sometimes one isn’t. Each case and each issue has to be dealt with on its merits and all viewpoints have to be taken into account before arriving at a conclusion on what is best.
What are the NGOs that you have worked closely with and what is the outcome? Are NGOs a good place to do an internship in the field of wildlife conservation?
I have worked with Wildlife First, Wildlife Conservation Society, Wildlife Protection Society of India and Wildlife Society of Orissa to name a few. A dynamic NGO can be a good place to intern, but one must have some skills to offer the NGO rather than just possess raw enthusiasm. The more skills one develops, the more the chances of getting an internship.A word of advice to the human race that seems to be hell bent on destroying nature?Preserving nature is neither a luxury nor a noble act of charity towards the earth. All of us are dependent on nature for everything, whether we realise it or not. As long as we take care of the planet, the planet can take care of us. By destroying nature we destroy the very things that make our own survival possible. The earth doesn’t care whether we nurture it or destroy it. It is up to us to use the natural resources that we have been blessed with wisely.
You have worked with lots of people. What is the best advice you have received when you were a young conservationist?
Emotional breast-beating does not help in solving problems. Knowledge-based advocacy does. Get your facts right and then tackle the problem with a clear strategy if you want to succeed.
What do you think is the best compliment you have received?
A person saying “I learnt a lot from your film”.
Kasturi Ramanathan has completed std XII at AMM School, Kotturpuram.
Popularity: 1% [?]