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FLAME alumna Namrata Anirudh's life of following her true passion

Namrata Anirudh is following her passion for working with animals and wildlife, given this interest, Biology was her preferred Major, but due to prevailing circumstances in 2007, Namrata opted for Psychology. She felt this choice of Major also took her towards her intended destination, that of working with animals, which came from the desire to understand them better to help them. As she reflects upon her choice, "this got me thinking - to understand humans, we need to learn our psychology in terms of behaviours, motivations and so on, and since humans are animals (apes), understanding the non-human animal shouldn't be that different. This thought led me to see Psychology as the best choice for me as a stepping stone to understanding animal behaviour." 

Following Passions

True to her intended direction, Namrata went on to do her Masters in Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Recently she has opted for a Ph.D. in Conservation Ecology at the University of Indonesia and the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), University of Kent, UK as a part of the Tropical Defaunation Hub. 

She started working with International Animal Rescue (IAR) in 2014 after the completion of her M.Sc. She first went to Indonesia in 2013 to conduct her research on a species of primates called slow lorises that were rescued from the illegal pet trade and housed for rehabilitation at IAR Indonesia. The subsequent year, she went back there as an intern and continued to work for them as a researcher for about six years because she was simply hooked! "The reason I went back and stayed for so long is that I fell in love with slow lorises," she says. The work done by IAR in trying to curb the illegal wildlife trade, creating awareness among the locals of the harsh realities of the pet trade and wild animal pet-keeping, rescuing,rehabilitating animals and releasing them back into the wild, and monitoring them to make sure they successfully manage wild living spoke strongly to Namrata and it was in line with her passion for helping the voiceless. 

Namrata spent most of her years with IAR helping the release team in tasks such as surveying forests for suitable locations, creating soft release enclosures in the forests, radio-telemetry monitoring of released individuals, behavioral data collection, training teams in inter-observer reliability and survey methods, etc. Through the years, she was involved in several different divisions and projects within IAR involving fund-raising, reporting, liaising with donors, helping awareness and education campaigns and programmes, data management and analysis, and research and survey design planning. Through her work there, she traveled to several places across three different islands of Indonesia that the three species of lorises are endemic to and got to explore different kinds of forests, hence living through some great experiences. After IAR, she moved to Borneo Nature Foundation in Kalimantan, Indonesia, in 2019. Her work here is more research-based conservation at a landscape level and less species-focused. 

Hard choices

Although Namrata's life seems like a dream run, she believes that many factors drive people, but at the core of them all, there is this passion that you just know or can feel that keeps nagging you and telling you that you should do it, even when you are confused or worried. "If you ask me, just listen to that passion," she says. 

Complex questions like 'how will you make money in the field you are in, how will you be successful if you are running around forests, what will you make of your life, what sort of a lifestyle will you have to live' and so on were faced by her. For her, those questions were irrelevant because she kept her passion front and center. However, she realizes that following your passion doesn't mean that life is smooth with no hardships or challenges. The joy of doing something you love makes up for it in Namrata's case. And the experience is not without its perks: "Having seen the most amazing forests, bathed and swum in the most pristine lakes, rivers, and waterfalls, interacted with so many different species of animals and great humans, living a simple life with a very low carbon footprint, living off the land as much as I can – these things for me are more important, and when I put it into perspective like this, I am filled with gratitude for all that I have," she adds. Being so immersed in pristine forests in the tropics has to have its high moments for sure. 

Namrata has experienced it all in the forests, orangutans, gibbons, hornbills to several species of snakes, snails, and critters, 50m tall trees, several forest fruit, an abundance of water and natural resources, to parasitic and predatory plants such as nepenthes and rafflesia, bioluminescent fungi, algae, and insects, to rich culture and tradition, wonderful and kind people and breath-taking beauty. 

The challenges are very real. She mentions living away from home and comforts, the constant buzz of mosquitoes and sandflies, bureaucratic issues involved in living and working in another country as a foreigner, and exploring and understanding the thin line between loneliness and being alone as some of the major challenges in her role. 

Value of the undergrad education

Namrata believes that her exposure to Psychology in her undergrad helps her deal with humans, spread awareness, and generally encourage people to take care of the planet. On the importance of guiding humans, she says, "People are the crux of an issue we deal with in conservation. Dealing with people for conservation goals is the primary task. I do believe that studying Psychology helps in my work today. It gives me a framework or a set of theories and ideologies that can be applied for different work/activities that target humans for behavioural change or motivate people to collaborate in conservation initiatives. It also helps in providing inputs for conservation/scientific communication, as it is required to understand the audience to be able to produce and create effective communication, education and awareness materials. In addition, it plays a role in my personal life as well, being a foreigner in another country, psychology as a form of sensitivity, understanding, acceptance and appreciation of one’s culture, beliefs, practices and ways of living is extremely useful in adapting and fitting in to a system different from yours or that you are familiar with. " 

Role of FLAME

Namrata feels that the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience in a wide range of subjects like languages, arts, sciences, and social sciences and having had the opportunity to participate and initiate many extra-curricular activities, workshops, and sessions at FLAME certainly provided her with ample confidence and open-mindedness to approach her Master's program, while living in a new country/culture to start with, and subsequently in her unique role as a conservator and in meeting all the challenges it offered.