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Warriors of the green
| August 06, 2018
Wonders can happen when youth join hands for conservation. The Green Army in namma Bengaluru is one such example that inspires.
Who hasn't in their childhood observed and marveled at ants walking in a line or bees collecting nectar from the flowers?
As Sir David Attenborough once said, "I don't know any child that is not fascinated with the natural world, but some children become fascinated by iPads or railway engines as they grow up." And then he added, "If you lose your interest in the natural world you've lost a very precious possession and something which could give you great pleasure for the rest of your life." This is sadly happening today.
There are few who still try to foster the love for nature and the will to conserve it. Educational institutions play a vital role in guiding the young minds to the path they seek. Green Army, a nature conservation wing of Christ University (deemed to be) is such a family where students from a diverse field of interests come together to discuss and share opinions on various environmental issues.
Green Army group after a trek
It was initiated in the year 2001 by Dr. P.U Antony, who is a professor of Zoology in Christ College. He encourages members to go out and explore the world based on his belief that nature is the best teacher; where looking around with an open mind makes one realize that the world is much larger and exquisite than one can ever fathom. "Nature is the best university. Exposure to the wonders of nature and the merits of adventure will help the youth to overcome weakness and to acquire confidence, self-esteem, and dignity... And orient them towards respecting and protecting the nature," says Dr. Antony.
Dr. P U Antony addressing members of Green Army
One day, a few Green Army members caught the college gardener just when he was about to kill a rat snake. They not only rescued the snake by jumping in front of his stick and moving the snake to safety, but the next day they put up stalls all over the campus to spread awareness on the importance of snakes. They even conducted workshops to train the college staff on appropriate behavior during such encounters in future.
The area around Valley School situated near Kanakapura road is one of the major birding hotspots in Bengaluru. Many birders go to this place during weekends. One day when a few GA members were busy watching birds, all eyes looking up, one member accidentally tripped on a snare. The team discovered 30 to 40 such loops of wires and brought it back from the area. The Valley School is bordered by agricultural fields, and there are many small mammals and ground-dwelling birds found in the area. The traps were most likely set up to hunt these.
The Green Army to date has organized many awareness programs, workshops, seminars, cycle rallies, nature camps, treks and innumerable activities to increase the skills and knowledge of students towards nature and biodiversity. A Green Army member's most awaited day of the week is Sunday when you will find them in and around Bangalore, curiously gazing at birds, butterflies, moths, herpetofauna, vegetation… the list just goes on.
The members have actively taken part in citizen science programs such as the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), National Moth week, etc. They have also published a few books like Guhanagari - A book on Urban Wildlife, Birds of Christ University main campus and Butterflies of Christ University main campus.
Green Army during GBBC
One of the major tasks that the Green Army has taken up is the protection of Byrasandra lake situated in Jayanagar, Bengaluru. It was scarcely a lake when they decided to start working on its revival and protection. The group conducted clean-up drives, approached the authorities in-charge and now the lake has finally started looking like one. Water levels in the lake have increased and many aquatic birds have started to visit the water body. A lot still remains to be done and the students are dedicatedly working at it.
Interactions with well-known conservationists and practitioners have been a key element in motivating the GA members. Dr. George Schaller, in conversation with GA members at National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru said, "The world needs youngsters like you, an army of young and passionate students like Green Army is essential for the conservation of nature."
Conservation orientation with D.V Girish, WildCat-C
Thanks also to D.V Girish, founder of WildCat-C who introduced the group to his team’s conservation activities in and around Chikmagalur. In the course of an orientation camp at Hulikanu (Field base outside Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary), he took the GA members to the exact spots that saw some of these conservation battles played out. For instance, what the KIOCL mining did to the Kudremukh wilderness was there to be seen. This has inspired many members to volunteer and intern with various conservation organizations in diverse projects.
Green Army on a trek
Some have volunteered in the line transect surveys conducted by WCS-India in Karnataka and Telangana, large mammal occupancy surveys in Kanha and Pench, scat routes in Himachal Pradesh, large mammal surveys in Nagaland, survey on birds in Uttarakhand, studies on rock agamas in Andhra Pradesh, conducting moth workshops, Coral conservation in Thailand, etc. These students then inspire other members by sharing their experiences and knowledge gained while working with professionals and researchers. Many have taken up conservation as a career and/or are pursuing higher education in the field of conservation and ecology as well as working in organizations like WCS-India.
Green Army sets an example to educational institutions on how groups like this are essential to build future conservationists and citizens. As the world is moving towards sixth mass extinction of species, driven by humans, it is crucial to engage youngsters in conservation. Knowledge is what gives strength to these students to stand for nature, like what Baba Dioum said, "In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught."
Written by Arjun S Menon