Young Naturalist Award 2020
Multi-lingual nature educator, co-founder of NaturalisT Foundation and peer mentor
At 23, Anurag Karekar has already achieved what most fail to do so in a lifetime. As a teenager, Anurag witnessed the glaring disconnect between the citizens of Mumbai and nature. When he began his Bachelor’s degree in Zoology at Bhavan’s College, he also found a lack of support groups that could help students launch a rewarding career in life sciences. After graduation, Anurag decided to address the two issues he faced as a student and citizen, by becoming one of the founders of the then newly-formed NaturalisT Foundation in 2015.
Through this Mumbai-based not-for-profit, Anurag and his colleagues have led hundreds of workshops and nature trails over the past five years. They have introduced thousands of citizens, young and old, to the largely ignored, charismatic species that quietly inhabit pockets of wild habitats in Mumbai. Every trail seeks to ignite interest in conserving local habitats, and ends with a talk from the team, addressing a relevant environmental issue that often inspires participants into conservation action.
Their Project Nature4All takes environmental education to BMC school children; Project Propolis advocates low-impact living in residential complexes and housing societies; and Green City Trails allows citizens to explore the wilderness within! Anurag has also worked with Sanctuary Green Teacher Awardee 2018, Nikita Pimple, to create a marine conservation curriculum for the students of Rishi Valmiki Eco School. A self-taught sustainable living expert, he believes that every citizen must do what they can to lighten their personal footprint on the planet. He has led workshops for adults on vermicomposting and waste management projects in residential complexes across the city.
When the pandemic put a stop to in-person interactions, Anurag launched the conservation science podcast ‘Voice of the Wild’ in English, and also in Hindi (Jungle ki aawaz), Marathi (Vanarai chi vani) and Gujarati (Aaranya), embracing non-English speaking audiences. Each podcast tackles a different issue, and are not direct translations. They have rallied support on critical campaigns such as the one to encourage the withdrawal of the Environmental Impact Assessment draft 2020.
Anurag’s knowledge, persistence and organisational skills set him apart and make him a force to reckon with.