How do you get school students to protect the environment? Ramnath, who conducts outreach programs for students through Youth For Conservation (YFC), makes it a hands-on experience. “I have been working with middle school students of HLC International School in Sholinganallur. We encourage students to identify environmental problems in their locality, and find solutions. Recently, some Class 8 students found garbage dumped on Sholinganallur lake. They compared images of Google Earth from 2001 and 2016, and found many areas around the lake were converted into dump yards. They will soon be working within their local communities to solve the garbage problem,” he said.
The shrub jungles and ponds in his native Pudukottai sparked Ramnath’s interest in nature and wildlife. “My father gifted a camera when I was in school and I started taking photographs. I shifted to Chennai after Class 9 and met wildlife filmmaker and conservationist Shekar Dattatri, and later, started working with him,” said the recipient of the Sutrusoozhal sudaroli award given by the State Government in 2013.
His latest work with Dattatri is The Race to Save the Amur Falcon, where he was the assistant producer, editor and footage contributor. The documentary is an example of a local community saving its wildlife. “The Amur Falcon migrates from Siberia to South Africa, with a stop in Nagaland for three weeks. Till 2012, thousands of these birds were hunted daily for their meat. A campaign was started by Conservation India to ban this. The hunters, who depended on these birds, found an alternative livelihood. They started homestays, where you can stay and watch these birds. They also have an Amur Falcon football tournament,” said the 27-year-old conservationist.
His pursuits took him to various natural hideouts in the country – from the evergreen Shola forests to the bleak, beautiful, snowy terrains of Ladakh. The photos, captured during his decade-long expeditions, showcase the country’s diverse wildlife. His most memorable experiences include walking 180 km from Padum in Zanskar to Leh in biting winter. “The Zanskar lake is turbulent during summer, but freezes during winter. The locals undertake this journey for economy or to attend school, through the frozen lake, when temperatures dip below -14 degrees C. Walking with them for 20 days was quite an experience,” he concluded.