“A house is not a home until it has a dog.” This is a quote by Gerald Durrell, by which my family and I lived. At each point in my life there were various kinds of pets starting from dog, birds, fish, and presently two cats. I grew up watching Mowgli (Indian version of Tarzan), reading about Gerald Durrell’s experiences, and further being fascinated watching the channels Discovery and National Geographic; people around me would be scared to watch the beasts scavenging and the reptiles moving, whereas I always wished I could see them face to face. I used to visit my local zoo as a kid and found that to be one of the coolest places in the world.
As time went by, this fascination towards animals didn’t remain a mere fascination; I took up Zoology and Botany for my undergrad at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, so that I could study in depth about them. I began interning at a private vet Dr. Gadge’s clinic, the animal hospital BSPCA and Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, where after I realized that I would like to reach out to them on a broader scale.
This got me interested in animal behaviour and I began working on it. For my Masters project at A.V.C. College, Tamil Nadu, I wanted to take a topic not only of my interest but something that could help to make a difference. I wanted to work for the welfare of the captive animals. I wanted to interpret levels of stress in captive felids (animals that belong to the cat family). Since they are voiceless, it is very important for us to interpret their needs through behaviour, and to bring out their natural behaviours. Environmental enrichment is a tool that we can use to make these animals experience the surprises that they would have faced, if present, in the wild. I worked in six different Indian zoos for my Masters project which was on “Evaluation of stereotypic (abnormal) behaviours and faecal corticosterone (hormone) levels of captive felids in six Indian zoos”. The study was promising as it could be compared to the wild and can be very useful for captive animal welfare and management. Post Master’s, I did a fellowship as a Junior Researcher at the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History working on a project – Baseline studies on Thane creek.
My next mission now is to nurture the young minds towards a greener world.
– Janice Vaz