1. What’s your role as a changemaker?

I’m a biologist, journalist, documentary film maker, writer and speaker.

2. What’s the change you are hoping to make in the world?

I hope to create a paradigm shift in the way people treat nature and wildlife by sharing knowledge and my own healing experiences in nature, so humans can co-exist with the natural world.

Kerala elephant

In particular, I’m hoping to end cruelty towards Kerala’s captive elephants that I witnessed first-hand during my visit to that southern state of India, and work towards propelling decision makers to ban using elephants in festivities. Elephants are my soul-animals as I was raised in the culture. Asian elephants are India’s heritage animal and people love and revere these animals on the one hand, but ironically they torture and exploit them in the name of religion and culture.

Our primary mission in embarking on this film production is to create a deeper understanding of the behavior and social organization of Asian elephants, as well as their inherent abilities to feel and communicate. Using this film we will engage and educate key stakeholders, and offer the owners and handlers positive reinforcement strategies to train Kerala’s captive elephants, in order to foster empathy and compassion and help alleviate their pain and suffering.

3. What prompted you to start working in this area?

I’ve always felt a profound connection with nature and wildlife, elephants in particular. Growing up in a strict high caste family was stressful – and in particular as a girl, I had little freedom to do what I wanted. I tried my best to stay away from home and spent numerous hours in fields and mango trees, listening to the chirping of the birds, and gazing at the moon and stars.

I grew up under a great deal of pressure. During my school days I had to rank between 1-3 in my class, and be the best – that was a tall order. But it also pushed me to become who I am today. I was a good athlete, an eloquent speaker and won numerous awards. I loved natural sciences – always fascinated by the cells, nucleus and plants and animals, and the similarities between humans and other living beings. I’d experienced nature’s healing powers even as a young girl, the sweet melodies of the birds, the warm breeze and the earth beneath my feet were soothing to my soul.

I used to dream of becoming a journalist, and sharing my knowledge and perspectives. After I moved to Canada in 1989 I went back to school, worked hard, and did everything to make my dream come true.

4. What successes have you seen so far?

I moved to Canada with a degree in biology and teaching experience, but I couldn’t find a job as a teacher. So I worked numerous jobs for the first few years until I saved up money and went back to do post graduate studies in journalism.

Sangita turtleI worked for some of the top Canadian broadcasters, and then I landed up with an amazing opportunity to work for the ABC/ CBS affiliate in Bermuda, where I was the night news anchor. I also produced two series of award-winning environmental films, “Bermuda – Nature’s Jewel” and “Enviro-Shorts”, which are now being used by schools across the islands of Bermuda. The miniseries were featured on Discovery Channel Canada. In 2009 I co-founded the Bermuda Environmental Alliance to educate the youth on environmental issues using non-traditional approaches, and exclusively focused on environmental stories, in a bid to connect people with the natural world.

There were, of course, challenges. Having moved from India I had to deal with the cultural and climatic shocks, and it wasn’t easy. But I was willing to grow, learn and evolve, and I love Canada – it’s one of the most amazing countries on the planet – a land of opportunities.

5. What are some challenges you face in your cause?

Resistance from the people who want to cling to age old traditions and in the name of religion exploit nature and wildlife.

Even collaborating with like-minded people hasn’t been easy because everyone has his/ her own worldviews and value systems that they want to cling on to. Can you imagine 7 billion people doing 7 billion different things? But instead can you imagine 7 billion coming together and sharing their talents, skills and wisdom and working collaboratively? This is the kind of planet I’m hoping to created through my films, evocative writing and speaking engagements.

6. What feels overwhelming for you right now?

The magnitude of the problems facing nature and wildlife. Although I’ve zoomed in on the plight of captive elephants, changing the mindset and thinking towards nature and wildlife hasn’t been easy so far.

Additionally fund raising for such projects in the face of economic challenges only adds to the stress.

7. What would you like plug?

Elephant trunk highOn 26th of March, we’re launching a crowd-funding campaign to help alleviate the pain and suffering of Kerala’s Captive elephants. Any help would be greatly appreciated. People can donate as little as $10, every penny is needed to help these poor animals. Visit our website www.fortheloveofelephants.net for more details and learn more about our campaign.

Please also spread the word on Facebook and Twitter, share with family and friends and together we can change people’s mindset and thinking towards our natural world that has sustained humans for centuries.

In my view we have a moral imperative to leave behind a better planet for our children and grandchildren. We need to leave the planet at least in the state it was when we arrived here, if not make it better …

8. What would you like to spend your Donate28 money on?

I’d like to celebrate the launch of the project by taking my son out to dinner.

 

To find out more about Sangita’s work:

Check out the website (the photography is amazing): fortheloveofelephants.net
Like on Facebook: www.facebook.com/forthelove.elephants
Follow @Love4Elephants on Twitter: twitter.com/Love4Elephants