Temi: Can you tell me about yourself and your organization?
Adyasha Nayak's: After a master’s degree in Wildlife Conservation, I worked with the Wildlife Institute of India in community-based research. I have prior experience working in labs, before switching to conservation and field-based work. Currently, I’m interested in the intersection between traditional cultural practices and conservation targets.
Temi: What role do cultural practices play in conservation?
Adyasha Nayak's: A large number of protected areas in South Asia are on lands that are important to rural and indigenous communities for resources. Conservation in these protected lands focuses on species that have cultural value. These cultural practices tend to be sustainable, around respect for wildlife and shared lands. We can take insights from them to plan long-term conservation to be more inclusive.
Temi: Can share with us some of your experiences relating to cultural practices and conservation?
Adyasha Nayak's: One example comes to mind. During fieldwork in Assam, I came across instances of people having faced conflict with the greater one-horned rhino. Surprisingly, the community did not harbor animosity but rather accepted that the rhino needs space as much as they do. Their belief in the animal being a godly figure has helped gather support for conservation.
Temi: What are the lessons learned over time that could benefit the wider conservation community/people working on this topic or related lines?
Adyasha Nayak's: A lesson I gained from my experience is placing local communities in the center. Rather than seeing cultural practices as something that needs to adjust to conservation management, we should be seeing them as partners.
Temi: What did you wish you would have known in terms of this topic before now and could be useful to share with other professionals now?
Adyasha Nayak's: When I started my fieldwork journey a few years ago as a student, I saw myself as someone who was there to just work. Over time, I developed comraderies with community members, and immersing in their culture to a degree helped me a great deal in being able to meaningfully work.
Temi: Which piece of information on this topic do you feel is currently missing in the conservation sector?
Adyasha Nayak's: We have a diverse group of professionals and organizations working with communities, in many different social contexts. We are also gradually moving on to inclusive ways to approach conservation. We need to collaborate and take our lessons across to areas where we work. This is the idea I want to take into my Ph.D. and hope to find like-minded collaborators.
Temi: Thanks, Adyasha, for your time and contribution to the WILDHUB community.
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Thank you so much for this piece Temi and Adyasha for taking the time to be interviewed. I especially love the example of the Rhino being already held in great stead by the community as well as the lessons learned that the community are in fact partners in conservation and need to be respected.