In the picturesque region of Jammu and Kashmir, where the stunning landscapes and rich biodiversity often take centre stage, a remarkable woman named Aaliya Mir has quietly emerged as a wildlife conservation hero. Despite being a mother of two children, her dedication and passion for safeguarding the region’s unique flora and fauna have earned her the prestigious Wildlife Conservation Award, presented by J-K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, and placed her in the spotlight as Kashmir’s first female wildlife rescuer.
Aaliya’s journey is as fascinating as it is inspiring. A prominent sociologist by profession, she took up the mantle of protecting the region’s wildlife as the Head of an Education System in the Wildlife SOS Program, a part of the Wildlife Rescue Team. Her achievements in wildlife conservation are multifaceted, including her significant contributions to bear rescue efforts in Kashmir, the rescue and release of a variety of wild animals, compassionate care for injured creatures, and the safeguarding of wildlife.
But what truly sets Aaliya apart is her fearless approach to rescuing snakes. She’s known for her adeptness at capturing snakes in the most unexpected places, from office corridors and car interiors to gardens and bus rooms. With remarkable finesse, she ensures these creatures are safely returned to their natural habitat.
One incident that garnered widespread attention was when Aaliya led the Wildlife SOS team in the daring mission to capture a Levantine viper, a venomous snake, from the residence of the then chief minister. This snake, weighing in at a formidable 2 kilograms, is known to be among the largest venomous snakes in the wild.
Aaliya’s dedication and unwavering commitment to wildlife conservation also resonate on social media, where a video of her rescuing a snake trapped in a scooter in Jahangir Chowk went viral, further solidifying her reputation as a true guardian of Kashmir’s diverse wildlife.
In the heart of this enchanting region, Aaliya Mir is a shining example of how individuals can make a lasting impact on the conservation of our planet’s precious species. Her story is not only one of courage and dedication but also a testament to the power of one person’s determination to protect the natural world.
FII: Tell us about your wildlife conservation journey.
For nearly two decades, my life has been intricately woven into the fabric of wildlife conservation in the enthralling region of Jammu and Kashmir. As a devoted wildlife conservationist and education officer at Wildlife SOS, my journey into this profound field was not a predetermined choice; it unfolded serendipitously. The driving force behind this commitment lies in a deep-rooted passion for the creatures that share our stunning landscape. From the formative years of my life, I’ve harboured a profound soft spot for animals. Their innocence and vulnerability became the compass guiding my unwavering dedication to their well-being.
FII: How did you overcome challenges in a male-dominated field?
Venturing into the male-dominated enclave of the Wildlife Department marked a pivotal chapter in my journey. It was met with a cacophony of reactions—some applauded my choice, recognising the need for diversity in this field, while others raised eyebrows, casting shadows on my capabilities. There was a prevailing notion that the physical demands of wildlife conservation might transcend what a woman could endure. Over the years, my journey has been a testament to the universality of passion and dedication, irrespective of gender. The challenges I faced in the male-dominated arena not only fortified my resilience but also fuelled my determination to break through stereotypes and prove that a woman could be an equal force in the pursuit of wildlife conservation.
FII: How did you manage to strike a balance, navigating work and personal life?
The intricate dance between the demands of wildlife conservation and the responsibilities of personal life is a universal challenge. In the context of the demanding field I operate in, this balancing act becomes a delicate and often strenuous juggling act. With two young children, the challenge became particularly poignant. Here, I owe an immeasurable debt of gratitude to the unwavering support of my husband and in-laws. Their steadfast encouragement became my backbone, providing the essential support needed to traverse the demanding landscapes of wildlife conservation while ensuring the stability and well-being of my family.
The intricate dance between the demands of wildlife conservation and the responsibilities of personal life is a universal challenge.Aaliya Mir
FII: Tell us about the remarkable rescue operation in 2005
Within the annals of my career, one episode stands out as a monumental turning point—the rescue operation of 2005. This was not merely an event; it was a profound experience that involved the rescue of both adult and cub bears. The emotions that surged through me during this rescue were a kaleidoscope—overwhelming happiness, a profound sense of accomplishment, and an unwavering commitment to the cause of wildlife conservation. It was more than a job; it was a calling that echoed through the valleys and mountains of Jammu and Kashmir, leaving an indelible mark on the trajectory of my journey.
FII: You are emerging as a role model. How does it feel?
Being cast in the role of a role model for young girls and women in a field once considered unconventional is a mantle I wear with pride. To inspire others to pursue their passions in wildlife conservation brings an additional layer of purpose to my journey. I aspire to be more than a symbol; I aim to be a living testament to what’s possible. Breaking down stereotypes and encouraging young minds to follow their passions is not just a personal endeavour; it is a contribution to shaping a more inclusive and diverse future in the realm of conservation.
FII: How challenging is conservation in the environment as Jammu and Kashmir has a unique landscape?
The canvas on which our conservation efforts unfold is the unique environment of Jammu and Kashmir. A region known for its breathtaking landscapes and diverse wildlife, it presents both opportunities and challenges for conservationists. Our work centres on the preservation of various species, including black bears, brown bears, leopards, and the elusive snow leopards. Developing strategies that harmonise conservation with industrial activities becomes paramount, recognising the delicate balance required between economic development and the preservation of wildlife.
FII: How do you navigate distressed animals?
The heartbeat of our conservation endeavours lies in the impactful rescue operations we undertake. When distress calls about animals in peril reach us, our team at Wildlife SOS springs into action. Whether it’s rescuing a bear trapped in a perilous situation or ensuring the safety of a stranded snow leopard, these moments resonate with the power of collective effort and dedication. Each successful rescue is not just a celebration of overcoming challenges; it is a reaffirmation of the critical importance of our work in the intricate web of wildlife preservation.
FII: The landscapes of Jammu and Kashmir are breathtaking. How do the natural surroundings influence your conservation efforts, and what challenges do you face in preserving the delicate balance of nature in this region?
The breathtaking landscapes of Jammu and Kashmir serve as more than just a picturesque backdrop for our conservation efforts. They are an integral part of the narrative, influencing and shaping the strategies we employ. While the region is undeniably beautiful, it faces constant threats to the delicate balance of nature. Our mission is not just to protect and preserve this balance but to ensure that future generations can inherit and appreciate the wonders of Jammu and Kashmir’s breathtaking natural beauty.
FII: Reflecting on your journey, what motivates you every day, and what message would you like to convey to those aspiring to make a difference in wildlife conservation?
As I reflect on my 17-year long journey, my motivation stems from more than just the routine of daily tasks. It comes from the deep sense of purpose, knowing that every action, every decision, plays a vital role in safeguarding the natural heritage of Jammu and Kashmir. To those aspiring to make a difference in wildlife conservation, I offer more than just encouragement; I extend an invitation to embark on a journey that goes beyond challenges. I encourage you to follow your passions, to contribute to the world, and to understand that the challenges faced are not obstacles but stepping stones in the privilege of protecting our magnificent wildlife.
I encourage you to follow your passions, to contribute to the world, and to understand that the challenges faced are not obstacles but stepping stones in the privilege of protecting our magnificent wildlife.Aaliya Mir
This interview delves deeper into the various facets of Aaliya Mir’s remarkable journey in wildlife conservation, providing a more comprehensive perspective on her experiences and the challenges she has overcome in the pursuit of preserving the natural heritage of Jammu and Kashmir.