Wildlife Conservationist – A Complete Career Guide

“We don’t own the planet Earth. We belong to it. And we must share it with our wildlife.”

Steve Irwin

Wildlife conservation has a prolonged history associated with India. During British Raj, the wildlife conservationist was mainly focused on one species, usually for game hunting. However, in 1972 with the formation of the Wildlife Protection Act, the approach towards wildlife management and conservation changed in India. Today, India is one of the first countries in the world to have stated scientific management and conservation of its forests.

What is wildlife conservation?

Wildlife conservation is a vague term. Although there are various definitions of it, the core meaning stays the same.

Wildlife Conservation is basically a practice wherein plants and animals are protected along with their habitat. It is one of the major activities that are performed to balance and stabilize the operation of the ecosystem. 

Generally, the need for wildlife conservation occurs when there is a lot of human encroachment in wildlife habitats. The increase in the population of humans led to different problems with the wilderness including the introduction of invasive species in various areas, climate change, pollution, habitat destruction, hunting, poaching and competition over resources.

Due to human intervention, the rate of extinction of wild animals has accelerated at least 100 to 1000 times more than what is naturally aspired.

Who is a wildlife conservationist?

A wildlife conservationist protects the wilderness and all its elements by doing intensive research and deducing the root cause of the threats towards wildlife and the environment. They have a deeper understanding of the complex ecosystem and the role it plays in our lives. 

Thereon, the said research is used in creating awareness in the community, which is an incredibly important task. That is why, apart from the academic requirements, it is imperative for a wildlife conservationist to be good at public speaking, as connecting and inspiring a community is a vital role that one plays.

A common misconception is that being a wildlife conservationist is all about wildlife and its elements over everything else. However, it is more about finding solutions, substitutes and balancing both worlds to make it sustainable.

Academics background requirements for wildlife conservationist

Generally, the students who are passionate about wildlife, can pursue their career as a wildlife conservationist. 

The basic path of being wildlife conservationist follows three academic steps.

  1. Passing class XII from the science stream with a minimum 50%.
  2. Completing bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences such as Zoology, Botany, Veterinary, Agriculture, Forestry and Environmental studies.
  3. Pursuing master’s degree in Wildlife Conservation.

People who are passionate about this field, also do Ph.D. in Wildlife Conservation.

Institutes for wildlife conservation courses in India

  1. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.
  2. The National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore.
  3. University of Kota, Kota.
  4. Gauhati University, Gauhati.
  5. Fergusson College, Pune.
  6. Bharati Vidyapeeth University, Pune.

Institutes for wildlife conservation across the world

  1. Harper Adams University, United Kingdom.
  2. University of Bristol, United Kingdom.
  3. University of Kent, United Kingdom.
  4. Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
  5. University of Vermont, United States.
  6. University of Florida, United States.
  7. University of Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Online courses and certifications for wildlife conservation

EDX

EDX provides thousands of free courses related to various subjects. It includes conservation, statistics, GIS, ecology, management and what not. Various Institutes across the globe are associated with this website. If you need a certificate, then nominal charges are applied.

National Geographic

Media powerhouse of National Geographic hosts a six-week online conservation course. The modules are developed by United for Wildlife and the Zoological Society of London.

Wildlife Campus

Wildlife Campus has a remarkable collection of both free and affordable wildlife courses. When you sign up for the first time, you are allocated 10 free conservation courses. It includes mountain guiding, birding, cultural astronomy, ecology, management, etc.

Coursera

Coursera is one of the well-known course hosting sites. They offer various environmental online courses for free. Although you normally must pay more for a certificate, Coursera is currently offering free certification on 85 of its courses.

Also, check other certifications for wildlife management

Work profiles of wildlife conservationists in India

Depending on the scope of research in a particular area, the career of wildlife conservationist becomes specialized or broad. Let us dive into details of five primary work profiles in the field of wildlife conservation.

Government officials

Government officials are considered as a baseline in wildlife conservation. The administrative hierarchy of Indian Forest Service in the Forest Departments in the States and Union Territories is as given below in the descending order –

  • Principal Chief Conservator of Forests 
  • Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests 
  • Chief Conservator of Forests 
  • Conservator of Forests 
  • Deputy Conservator of Forests

Wildlife Biologist

Wildlife biologists generally focus on four aspects of wildlife conservation.

  • Studying the origin and development of different species, their habits, diseases, behavior, as well as the relationship between wildlife and their environment.
  • Maintaining records of species and habitat types studied during surveys.
  • Performing accurate statistical models on the data collected and concluding.
  • Preparing biological as well as environmental reports.

While pursuing the career as a wildlife conservationist, maximum time is spent on the field than in office or lab.

Wildlife enforcement officers

Hunting, illegal trade, electrocution and poisoning are serious threats to wildlife. Effective and timely law enforcement is the key to reducing these widespread threats. This is exactly where the role of wildlife enforcement officers comes in the picture. His / her responsibilities include –

  • Patrolling protected areas.
  • Providing conservation education to the community.
  • Providing hunter safety courses.
  • Enforcing conservation laws.
  • Checking hunting and other conservation licenses.
  • Enforcing hunting limits.
  • Making arrests when necessary.
  • Writing reports and providing courtroom testimony.

Public educator and outreach coordinator

Public educator and outreach coordinator is many times a face of an organization. His / her communication skills are specialized weapons.

The duties of public educator and outreach coordinator include-

  • Educate and aware the community about wildlife
  • Writing articles and press release
  • Developing materials such as games, brochures, books, etc.
  • Conducting and attending different events related to wildlife.

GIS specialist

As discussed earlier, wildlife conservation is the protection of wildlife along with their habitat. GIS specialists generally work regarding habitat conservation. They use satellite images to monitor and study different habitats. They are responsible for –

  • Monitoring different events such as forest-fire, deforestation, degradation, etc.
  • Interpreting the data collected in the field.

Workplaces

There are various national and international NGOs that work with wildlife conservation. Highlighting few of the leading NGOs in the field of wildlife conservation.

Wildlife SOS

They actively work in protection of Indian wildlife, conserving their habitat, studying biodiversity, conducting research and creating alternative and sustainable livelihoods for former poacher communities They run a few rescue centers and have done some remarkable work on rehabilitation of Bears.

Wildlife Conservation Trust 

They work on the field with the local forest department for conservation, science and training of forest guards. They are also specialized in health care as well as livelihood awareness programs in tribal communities around forests.

Wildlife Protection Society of India

It was founded in 1994. WPSI’s main aim has been to bring a new focus to the daunting task of tackling India’s growing wildlife crisis. They collaborate with state governments to monitor the illegal wildlife trade and provide them with hands-on training and support to combat poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.

The Nature Conservation Foundation

It was established in 1996. Their goal is to contribute to the knowledge and conservation of India’s unique wildlife heritage. They work in a range of wildlife habitats from coral reefs and tropical rainforests to the high mountains of the Himalaya. Also, they work with few endangered species such as snow leopards and elephants, as well as equally fascinating but lesser-known wildlife such as corals and spiders. 

Other than the NGOs, you can also consider working with the forest department.

Wildlife Conservationist salary in India

The basic salary for freshers in the field of wildlife conservation is around ₹ 3 to 4 lakhs per annum. On the other hand, the salary of senior scientists grows on an average ₹ 6 to 8 lakhs per annum.

Few existing Government projects in the field of conservation

Project Tiger

Project Tiger was initiated in the year April 1973. The objective of this project was to save tigers by protecting its habitat. It was first launched in Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand under the leadership of Indira Gandhi. Under this project, the potential protected areas for tiger conservation were declared as Tiger reserves. Today there are 18 tiger reserves in India.

Crocodile Conservation Project

In response to declining crocodilian populations, in co-operation with the Government of India and State Governments, a crocodile conservation program was launched in 1975. Under this project, sixteen crocodile rehabilitation centers and 11 crocodile sanctuaries were established. A total of 879 gharials, 190 estuarine crocodiles and 493 muggers were captive-reared and released.

Project Elephant

Project elephant is a sponsored scheme of the Central Government launched in February 1992. The scheme helps and assists in the management and protection of elephants to the States having free-ranging populations of wild elephants, in order to ensure the survival of the elephant population in the wild as well as protection of elephant habitat and elephant corridors. Project elephant is mainly implemented in 16 States / Union Territories, which includes Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand, Kerala, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Uttaranchal West Bengal Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh.

At the end, this is the best career option for those who love wildlife. It is an excellent mixture of outdoor and indoor works. Career in wildlife conservation is challenging yet adventurous. If you are passionate about wildlife and its conservation, give it a chance!

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