Countless women have gone wild in their desire and persistence to forge an unbreakable bond with the untamed beauty of Mother Nature. In the heart of the jungle, beneath the canopy of ancient trees, these women can be found striding purposefully through the lush undergrowth, their eyes, keen as a jaguar’s, scanning the verdant landscape. Women have been the unsung heroines of the wild for centuries, working silently and tirelessly to protect and conserve our planet's heart: its wildlife.
Franck Prevot's book, Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees (2015), narrates the story of Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan woman who planted over 30 million trees to combat deforestation and empower local communities. Her Green Belt Movement rejuvenated Kenya's landscapes, and she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, a testament to the profound impact one determined woman can have on the environment.
Let us draw a portrait of a remote African savannah at dawn, where, bathed in the gentle light of the rising sun, Maasai women stride confidently beside their cattle. Adorned in colourful beads and vibrant attire, these women are more than just shepherds; they are stewards of an ancient land. Through generations, they have passed down the wisdom of harmonious coexistence with wildlife, ensuring that their children inherit a world where lions still roar, and elephants remember to trumpet.
Go hiking in the mountains of Nepal to see brave women patrolling the snowy slopes, safeguarding the elusive snow leopards from poachers' snares. They are both protectors and educators, teaching their communities the value of these magnificent cats and the importance of preserving their high-altitude habitats.
Have we forgotten the wild women of the sea, the guardians of our oceans? With salt-kissed tresses and saltier stories, they dive into the deep oceans, advocating for marine life preservation. Whether protecting coral reefs or safeguarding nesting sea turtles, these oceanic warriors stand as sentinels of the watery realm. Dr Sylvia Earle’s story is often called “Her Deepness”. Dr Earle is a renowned marine biologist and oceanographer who dedicated her life to exploring and advocating for preserving the world’s oceans. Dr Earle's pioneering work has involved countless expeditions to study aquatic ecosystems and document the effects of human activities on the ocean environment. She was the first female chief scientist of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). She led numerous deep-sea diving missions, setting records for the deepest solo dive in a submersible.
Women have also made their mark in science and research for the wild forest dwellers. Jane Goodall’s tireless efforts to understand and protect chimpanzees redefined our understanding of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. Her groundbreaking research in Gombe Stream National Park shed light on chimpanzee behaviour and paved the way for African conservation efforts.
In laboratories and field stations across the globe, female scientists unravel the mysteries of migratory birds, decipher the dialects of dolphins, and decode the secrets of the rainforest’s medicinal plants.
We cannot give this wild women’s story a neat end without celebrating countless women in their communities who are quietly taking action. They are planting trees in deforested landscapes, returning injured wildlife to health, and advocating for sustainable farming practices. They are the backbone of grassroots conservation, working tirelessly to ensure that the harmony between humans and nature endures.
At twilight, when the last rays of sunlight filter through the forest canopy, these defenders of the wildlife turn homewards, their hearts filled with a profound sense of purpose. If forests and wildlife are the heart, these wild women are the heartbeats. Through their love, dedication, and unwavering commitment, they ensure that the symphony of life continues to flourish in the wildest corners of the Earth.
So, the next time you hear the call of a bird, feel the rustle of leaves beneath your feet, or catch a glimpse of a wild creature in its habitat, remember the wild women who stand as guardians. They embody our planet’s enduring spirit, reminding us that, with love and determination, the vibrancy of the natural world can be preserved for generations to come.
(The writer is Assistant Professor of English at Rani Lakshmi Bai Central Agricultural University, Jhansi)