Harindra Baraiya, PhD scholar at Wildlife Institute of India, who has studied the movements, wintering ground, space use, and migration flyways of two migratory Crane species i.e., Common and Demoiselle Crane, to learn about their migratory journey
Q: What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and rare career?
During the first year of graduation, I got a chance to attend a workshop titled “Shape the Youth to Lead the Society for the Protection of Environment” where I received a book named “Birds of Northern India”. This workshop introduced me to the beautiful world of wildlife, especially birds. I was lucky to be in a city like Bhavnagar where a small forest was present right in the middle of the city. Regular visits to this area nurtured my passion for wildlife and I slowly started observing bird behaviour, calls, and other wildlife around. Also, my farm was surrounded by hillocks and thorny semi-arid scrubland. This area is home to rich biodiversity with as many as 110 bird species in such a small area. Regular visits and field notes from the surroundings of my farmland led me to publish my first conference paper.
Q: How did you get your first break?
Working as an intern at the Wildlife Institute of India proved to be a great learning experience. At the tail-end of my internship, WII announced a position of a research fellow in the project looking at the impact of energy infrastructure on large avian species in the arid plains of western Gujarat. The study area for this project was the vast arid plains of the Kachchh district and the study species were large birds like Flamingos and Cranes. Since I am from Gujarat and have worked in the same landscape for my dissertation, I found it to be a great fit. I appeared in the interview and got selected. This was my first big break which eventually led me to my PhD study.
Q: What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
The first and foremost challenge in wildlife research is the lack of motivation and encouragement. The society where I belong believes in 9 to 5 indoor jobs which pay handsomely. Therefore, it took me some time to get my family on board with this kind of career. However, once I explained to them the importance and potential of wildlife research, they supported me in every possible way. My research involved the capture of large birds and fitting them with GPS-GSM transmitters. Cranes and Flamingos can be spotted in many inland wetlands, sometimes in proximity to villages. In these wetlands, capturing birds may offend local people as they are religiously very sensitive towards wildlife. Therefore, before carrying out capture activities, I met with the local leaders, gathered people, and made them aware of the threats to wildlife and how my research activities can help save them. These awareness activities were very effective in getting locals on board for this work and eventually many people helped me.
Q: How does your work benefits society?
Cranes have always been a symbol of love and companionship and are well-embedded in our culture. However, there is very little scientific knowledge available about migratory cranes and their life here in our landscape. When people learn about their migratory journeys, it instills a sense of admiration and evokes responsibility for hosting these long-distance travelers. As a result, it will deter hunting and will help sustain a healthy ecosystem.