Bharat Vaghabhai Kamaliya

Young Naturalist Awards (2005)

Bharat Kamaliya protects nesting sea turtles and has taken on poachers who have been slaughtering migratory birds around his village – Saiyad Rajpara – in the Una taluka of Junagadh district. He is also a protector of endangered whale sharks that were once slaughtered, till they were, mercifully, categorised under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, along with tigers, lions and elephants. Bharat is just a Class IX student. And his involvement with wildlife is as recent as 2003, when the Gir Foundation organised a Samark Yatra to increase awareness of the need to protect sea turtles and migratory birds along Saurashtra’s coast. Among the thousands of students contacted was Bharat Kamaliya, who stood out because much after the Yatra ended, he continued to fight to change what he saw. At first, he started by speaking to other students to seek their help. Then he moved to the many coastal villages where the eggs would be sold. He explained to fishermen just how endangered our marine creatures are. His lone efforts today, have turned into a veritable movement. Over 50 students now regularly patrol the 12 to 15 km. coastline along their village to monitor sea turtle nests and to win the support of the fishing community in the protection of whale sharks and dolphins that tend to get entangled in their nets. While undertaking this task, he and his green warriors also rescue snakes that might otherwise be killed near human habitation and talk to children and parents in villages about how protecting trees and planting them will improve the quality of their own lives. Migratory waterfowl are safer in Saurashtra thanks to him. Nothing illustrates his success more than the fact that this year as many as five whale sharks that were caught in fishing nets were released by fishermen in his village, though each release cost over Rs. 15,000 in nets lost because they had to be cut. India is fortunate to have a son such as Bharat in its fold. He has a lifetime of wildlife service ahead of him. He is a nation builder.