Participant Experience and Feedback for Conservation Ninja Course on human-animal co-adaptation

Participant 1 - Anonymous

Dear Team Wild Otters, First of all, I would like to thank you for sponsoring me for this wonderful and so interactive course on human-animal interaction. I personally found this course very useful as per my profile, and this is the only reason I was so enthusiastic to attend the course. The concept of the course was really wonderful, the video (documentary session), interactive talks, and role plays was the most impressive and much knowledgeable for me. A lot of information was covered quite thoroughly in a reasonable period of time. The idea of reviewing real life cases, rather than taking it theoretically, was really impressive. Sometimes it was difficult to cope with the rules. Every moment I learnt something regarding myself, and I am ready to accept the challenged behind handling the situation of conflict – at least how to reduce the interaction between human-animal or human-human conflict. The cases were so relevant to most of the situations. To be really effective to replicate, the knowledge and expertise of Dr. Vidya Athreya ma’am and team was really chronologically way ahead of what exactly happens in real scenario especially in my area. At last I would like to mention the idea was really wonderful, I personally love the concept. Sincere thanks

Participant 2 - Aishwarya Laghate

This workshop of human-wildlife interaction was very new to me. I always thought from an animal point of view, but these four days made me realize that in the end, however much of a big animal lover you are, the solution always lies in the human point of view, because it’s us who have to adapt and find solutions of a currently occurring conflict. Also, I found a new perspective of looking and reflecting about so many words which I hadn’t pondered over before. Some words include: Conflict, Tolerance, Stakeholders, Co-adaptation, Wildlife, Threat, Fear and fascination. I realized how different stakeholders have different roles and importance in a given situation. Through stakeholders mapping and sculpting, I got to know if each one of us work hand in hand, we can come to such a solution which nobody even expected in the first place. Last but not the least, I learnt that all conservation efforts might take a while to get sorted and executed, but it’s always about the feeling which you get when you saved an animal from a human-dominated scenario. We all being animal lovers die for a situation like this. The rest, I’ll learn later, when I’ll have a practical experience of all the circumstances, but it’s always good to be ready for a situation that may happen in the future. Everything was AWESOME. I loveddddd RAY and little pup LADAKH!! :) Thank you guys for a wonderful experience!

Participant 3 - Anonymous

I loved the set up of a discussion instead of a discourse. Learnt a lot more about stakeholders, when to sit back and when to take action. The people element of conservation is what has always been missing. The concept of co-habitation has only been relegated to pets, rodents, and small birds. Seeing how this can work with predators and large animals like elephants has been an eye-opener. It was refreshing to see how the locals could perceive these neighbors of theirs vs. external people. I would change nothing. There is no need for study material or making things formal. This informal method is EXACTLY what the new generation of conservationists needs. The breaks were perfectly timed. The concepts were brought forth in the perfect order. Even the amount of interaction between everyone has been just right.

Participant 4 - Shruthi S

The workshop has been a very humbling experience. I came to it with vague ideas and disconnected experiences. While I never thought I knew much about wildlife [considering I’m so new to it.] this workshop cleared notions of “knowing” while empowering me with tools and ways of thinking that might lead me to knowledge. The conversations with Vidya ma’am and all her students will be ones I carry with me forever. The concept of co-adaptation was introduced with a lot of groundwork of dispel notions of conflict. I think the workshop quietly but effectively introduces and shapes conservationists [or people who are interested] in a way that they will always approach ‘human-wildlife conflict’ with a lot more thought whenever they encounter it. This workshop was enlightening and engaging but also, it was fun. It was well paced, didn’t allow for (too much) saturation and kept people interested. I would most definitely recommend it to people / attend a follow-up workshop about it. Frankly, this seemed to be the best conducted workshop with the given access and resources. If I can add ‘ideal’ situations, I would have liked interaction with stakeholders. [Not all at once; not even many] just maybe some person from the community or from a forest department. [Obviously it would take a lot to manage this.] However, I would have wanted for the stakeholder to tell us how they would like us to approach them / what they face, instead of us assuming things for them.

Participant 5 - Madhuri Karmakar

Before coming to this course I had very little knowledge on how human and animal interactions work. This course taught me many new things and also solidified some of my knowledge. Earlier, I thought, when we go about solving conflict, a lot of work has to be done on improving the animal side of the conflict, but now I think that much of the work being done is with the humans in trying to change the perception of them rather than animals. And one more thing that I found out is that it is possible for humans and animals to co-adapt to a certain extent, but it’s just a matter of how you perceive the situation. This course is very interesting and one of a kind. The way the knowledge was shared was very unique. The course made us question and not just accept what other people are saying. The interactive way in which the course was held helped us to understand the situation of human-animal interactions better. I think more such courses and workshops should be organized and topics like human-animal interactions which are relatively new and not much discussed chosen.

Participant 6 - Vedansh Jain

I came her on the fourth of this month with my classmates. It was a very new thing for me as I have not attended any workshop like this and it was a new topic for me as I have studied more of Ecology and Animal and Wildlife Science. On the very first day I had a different mind on wildlife. As I said, it does not include human influence. But as the discussion started there were many questions and points that forced me to think differently, and of every possibility of human and wildlife interaction. The whole session was very good, but as a graduating student, it was difficult for me to interact with everyone as I am not used to it. The video clips and documentaries shown in between were actually a rest to the mind after such mind-storming sessions. Beside the sessions and interactions, we had a field visit too which was entertaining. We also had fun on our own. I would be glad to visit the place again for another workshop for developing my own communication skills and knowledge. I have heard about the GIS sessions or internships being here and I would like to learn about that.

Participant 7 - Anonymous

The ideas of co-adaptation and acceptance/tolerance as a conflict mitigation step may be new, but I feel it is how humans and animals were supposed to exist naturally. It just took us a really long time to reach that conclusion and it is still a novel concept for a majority population. Through this course, I’ve realized that conservationists or people at large don’t need to do much with animals. If they (the people) keep their distance and avoid/ignore them, we should be able to co-exist. The experience was good. The case-studies and movies really helped. The overall experience forced us to think and understand different perspectives.

Participant 8 - Anonymous

The most important learning for me was that CONFLICT does not necessarily have to be present. What we may perceive as conflict may be only a few/rare negative interactions in reality. While talking to locals about interactions with the animal, it is important to realize the way you talk – whether you have introduced this idea of conflict in their heads or there actually is a conflict situation. Listening to everyone’s personal experiences with the FD and other “stakeholders” was very interesting. I liked that the course was not crammed and there was enough time to interact with other participants/facilitators. The stakeholder role play was very effective in understanding how each one interacts.

Participant 9 - Shreesh Bellare

My experience – no perception of animosity! Yay! The workshop provided a very open platform for sharing and engaging with various perspectives. IT was great to see that ideas of interacting democratically were intrinsic to all the activities. There was a genuinely welcoming nature which goes far towards people being able to express themselves while humbly learning from others. My experience with conservation has been minimal but this workshop provided a balance of materials and experienced inputs to help me position myself when observing a context and trying to decide on the appropriate action/interaction. The workshop duration and the shared accommodation also made for a very comfortable setting. I could assume that most participants wish the workshop was longer or are looking forward to more workshops/programs, as I am.

Participant 10 - Rathnavel Pandian Thangamani

Being a part of this workshop was really a wonderful learning experience. Besides learning new things, this workshop also validated and improved very vague ideas I already had – mainly regarding the importance of “perception” of conflict by various stakeholders. The validation along with the new concepts I have learned have made me more confident of my ability to learn, and most importantly, decipher the facts, myths and misconceptions surrounding human-animal interactions. In other words, I could say this workshop has made me learn how to learn, which is the best kind of learning there is. I really liked the laid-back, informal and interactive approach of the workshop. I also really liked the balloon exercise, which out things in a different perspective. The talks and the movies were also excellent, plus it was very nice to meet many people who share similar interests and do very different, interesting things. Personally, one problem I had was language, because my knowledge of Hindi is slightly limited. Though I understood 80% of the things said in Hindi, I would have really liked a follow up of an English translation. I probably should have told this in the very beginning, but I just assumed that this would be fine.

Participant 11 - Arjun Kadam

The workshop really helped me open my mind – it left me wondering about several questions regarding co-adaptation. What really is wildlife? What is the origin of it? For whom is it a conflict? And this in itself was an incredible learning experience – we were given a perfectly balanced blend of personal anecdotes and scientific studies by the facilitators, and enough breathing space and processing time to assimilate this information really helped it sink in. How we must question everything, especially ourselves and our biases and status quo, sometimes conservationists actions themselves having the potential to snake a conflict when there is none. Like the case with wolves! The part that really captivated me was the community engagement and outreach projects at SGNP and on Western Maharashtra – leopard adaptation and the works! This complete with Atul’s inputs on the larger picture were very thought provoking, and my takeaway from this is the way it taught us to THINK! Take a step back and see the entire picture along with the perceptions of the people – a bird’s eye view along with a worm’s eye view! The stepactive exercises were also extremely engaging. The entire informal atmosphere was conducive to learning! The holt and the hierarchy experiments in particular! The stakeholder practice was very analytical and I would be sure to use it the next time I read about an issue! The workshop was at an easy pace which was very conducive to learning – I think that that is how we managed to come so far without getting mind-numbed! The atmosphere was informal and that again helped get everyone’s thoughts and ideas about a particular topic which brought interesting dimensions into the workshop! The field conditions were comfortable and I don’t think that that needs any changes. The field station is absolutely stunning – the way it is managed and the people here as well – Atul, Akshita, Hannah, Komal, Mary! It was great being here and I learnt a great deal!

Participant 12 - Aniket Gupta

The structure of the workshop is fantastically designed, we came in not knowing what to expect, but it’s been a rocket since day one. Up, up and above! The facilitators interaction and the environment is super comfortable, the campsite is killer! Can’t wait to be back!! A couple of things changed for me during the length of the course, the first being the ability to consider the bigger picture. It was almost overwhelming to see the whole iceberg of things which till date I have failed to realize. The second key point was the understanding of different dynamics of any action implemented in any human-animal scenario. Not just identifying stakeholders but key influencers of those very same stakeholders. Last and the most important take away for me was the fact that sometimes in conservation even good intentions might not necessarily translate into good measures. Some situations might ask you to just sit back and observe, while other would require you to ask very well phrase questions which if not exercised with caution, might cause conflict. A very engaging workshop which opens up your thinking to issues in a much larger way than just one side of the deal that has been represented. Gives hope to a wildlife observer that if we change just a little altitude, mass extinction might just be averted.

Participant 13 - Lisa Marie Gonsalves

A crucial course in understanding human animal conflict and the situation of the conservation scenario that most of us intend to get into. 
Practical exercises helped us gain a more realistic perspective and introduced us to new factors that we hadn’t really considered prior to this. One of the key points was not to jump to conclusions. Patience is key, as a successful and a functional conservation program takes a long while of having to gauge the situation, figure out a suitable plan of action and act accordingly to the people and the animals of the area. Analyze the situation first. Conservationists play a key role in ‘sculpting’ or negotiating with a critical stakeholders in bringing about a positive change.  A practical mindset will definitely work in one’s favour, over passion or emotions let loose. In a world where now humans and animals sharing spaces is inevitable, it highlighted the importance of co-existence and consequent co-adaptation. Knowledge is key. It is vital to distinguish between reality and portrayal of the situation, victimizing as well as pointing out a culprit should be avoided. Address the core problem and strategise. overall, a truly eye-opening course all around. Definitely altered my way of thinking, positively and encouraged me to take action. 


Participant 14 - Aditi Karanjkar

Conservation Ninja course on human-animal co-adaptation gave me an insight and understanding of the word, ‘co-adaptation’ and how it is the solution to this world of growing population. It is not something that is going to happen overnight but it is also not something which is impossible. The people in Gujarat have adapted to lions and even when lions eat the villagers’ cattle, they are okay with that. So there exists a negative interaction, but not all negative interactions result in conflict. I mainly got to understand the ways in which the humans and animals can share space in harmony. It changed my overall perception of considering humans and animals as separate entities. Environment, wildlife, conservation, are easy-to-say words but when it comes to talking about it and implementing it, it is equally difficult. The fun practical exercise, helped me to understand how things work in the real world and how stakeholders should be engaged in conservation. Also the key to successful conservation lies in the different skill-set of people in the team. It was a very informative workshop and no one would have delivered better than Atul and Nikit. The most impactful lines that I came across in this workshop are,
‘Co-existence is a journey, not a destination’ and 'Man-eaters are man-made’.

Participant 15 - Sidharth Srinivasan

A crucial course in understanding human animal conflict and the situation of the conservation scenario that most of us intend to get into. 
Practical exercises helped us gain a more realistic perspective and introduced us to new factors that we hadn’t really considered prior to this. One of the key points was not to jump to conclusions. Patience is key, as a successful and a functional conservation program takes a long while of having to gauge the situation, figure out a suitable plan of action and act accordingly to the people and the animals of the area. Analyze the situation first. Conservationists play a key role in ‘sculpting’ or negotiating with a critical stakeholders in bringing about a positive change.  A practical mindset will definitely work in one’s favour, over passion or emotions let loose. In a world where now humans and animals sharing spaces is inevitable, it highlighted the importance of co-existence and consequent co-adaptation. Knowledge is key. It is vital to distinguish between reality and portrayal of the situation, victimizing as well as pointing out a culprit should be avoided. Address the core problem and strategise. Overall, a truly eye-opening course all around. Definitely altered my way of thinking, positively and encouraged me to take action. 


Participant 16 - Tejas Parshionikar

Dear Wild Otters family, It was a very informative experience with you guys. Amazing work you have done here. Before I came here, so many thoughts were there in my mind. Negative and positive towards conflict etc. Now I have clear vision that helps me in the field. I have been to so many workshops, where they only give powerpoint presentations. But here, it was a different way of learning. We were taught from the ground level, that is important. Next time I would like to come here to work with Wild Otters. The workshop was very useful for my team. And it gives us strength and motivation to work with nature and to build the team professionally. 
Thank you.

Participant 17 - Mrinmayi Dalvi

Going into the ‘Conservation Ninja’ workshop, I had a basic understanding of most of the concepts, however, I developed a much better understanding as the workshop progressed. Entering the field, most of us hope to make a difference and create a better environment for wildlife but we do not always realize the practicalities involved in the process. While performing the tasks and exercises, we got to know some of the complexities involved, as all the case studies provided were based on real-life scenarios. Hence the importance of a realistic approach towards dealing with situations involving people and wildlife was understood. 
Another realisation was that wildlife management is more about managing people. In sensitive situations it is always necessary to show the needed amount of sensitivity and an understanding towards the concerned people. 
It was also a pleasure interacting with the participants and the facilitators as it helped broaden my perspective while giving me an insight into other perspectives, coming from a variety of backgrounds.