We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today
– Stacia Tauscher
"My dream and purpose in life has always been to battle for an Orissa that was—where every village had a wildlife tale to tell, where coming across tigers was an ordinary thing, where endless expanses of Sal stretched across the state; where the air, water and food were not laced with toxins and where the hills, forests and wildlife weren't blown up for short-term, myopic goals. I dream of an Orissa that was... It isn't too late. We still have our forests. All we need to do is revive the life in them by protecting our wildlife." At 27, this is the evolved vision of Aditya Panda, winner of the Sanctuary Young Naturalist Award, 2007. To this end, he spends his days working towards safeguarding and reviving the tiger and elephant habitats of his home state Orissa as well as in the larger Eastern Central Indian region including adjoining states such as Jharkhand. He serves as the Deputy Editor of TigerLink and is a conservation partner of the Bagh Foundation.
Vishal Prabhakar Bansod
"The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person's determination," says baseball player Tommy Lasorda. And determination is something Vishal Prabhakar Bansod has never lacked, given his designations of Nature Education Officer with the Nature Conservation Society in Amravati and Coordinator for Kids for Tigers. His is a familiar name in 39 villages of the Melghat Tiger Reserve, where he imparts environmental education to locals, conducts raids and designs field guides to help officials as well as the communities to understand the content and purpose of wildlife laws.
While some are working to create awareness and reach out to people, others are dedicated to understanding more about the workings of Mother Nature. Rohit Naniwadekar, for instance, had the seeds of environmental activism sown within him at an early age. His childhood excursions with the Bombay Natural History Society lured him into the exquisite world of nature and he went on to attend a course in Conservation Biology by ATREE and then a Masters at the Wildlife Institute of India.
As a teenager, Rohit Chakravarty started Nagpur Naturalists, a local nature group which makes presentations on environmental degradation and climate change across various schools in the city. In 2008, he represented western India at a seminar on Climate Change organised by the British Council in China. Rohit is one of India's shining stars and a future leader in the fight against global warming. His talented brother, Rohan was also part of Sanctuary Asia's Kids for Tigers programme in Nagpur. His love for wildlife has found expression through his art, which is manifested best through cartoons. Rohan uses humour to push for hardcore conservation and environmental protection.
Young Naturalist Award 2013 winner Meghraj Saini is a tiger protector, crusader and wildlife activist. When Kids for Tigers, the Sanctuary Tiger Programme, was launched in 2000, Meghraj Saini was just three years old. At 17 years, he now travels from village to village near the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, organising meetings to win support for the tiger.
Young Madhav Subrahmaniam is another one to watch out for. Now 17, he helped his mother with the intent of earning money from his parents to donate to tiger-protection organisations at the age of nine. For a while, much to their delight, guests had to pay a tiger tax to enter his parent's home! The Satpuda Foundation used the money he gave them to start the Madhav Tiger Conservation Fund, which helps the forest department regenerate degraded forests in and around the Melghat Tiger Reserve. He was listed by The Guardian, U.K. as one of 50 people who could save the planet.
Young Naturalist Award winner Riddhima Yadav is a youth advocate, citizen journalist and wildlife lover engaged in biodiversity conservation since the age of 10. Currently a part of the vibrant Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN), she was selected to attend the National Geographic Student Expedition 2011 to Costa Rica for Biodiversity and Conservation. Articulate and inspiring, at the age of 14, Riddhima has launched her own taskforce, Youth for the Environment (YFTE).
At 24, the talented photographer, Ramnath Chandrashekar has channelled his talent and drive with missionary zeal across Tamil Nadu, where he helps inform thousands of school and college students on the finer aspects of tiger conservation through screenings and discussions based on the film 'The Truth About Tigers'.