February 27th (by Alexandra Thomas)
Despite my students all being older and much more professional than me I was surprisingly nervous for them all doing their presentations on this last day. Not because I thought them incapable but because they’d all worked so hard and I was so inspired by them and proud I wanted it to be recognised by the tutors as well.
Needless to say everybody absolutely triumphed and each presentation covered an interesting, relevant and thought provoking topic. Even when poor Yogesh had to deal with multiple power cuts during his presentation he put across his subject brilliantly.
After all the hard work of the past 3.5 weeks was done we got to have a bit of relief in the form of an awards ceremony (a sweltering hot awards ceremony I should say). Everybody got a beautiful certificate and group photo (myself of course front and centre) and a pug mark of one of the Sariska Tigers we had so diligently and patiently been keeping an eye out for, immortalised in a keepsake. I’m going to have to do a lot of smiling and distracting to get my over-weight baggage checked in with all these presents! The awards weren’t serious, if anything it captured the individual personalities and mark some of the students had made on the tutors and me over the course of these past few weeks. From people learning how to swim to others being forced to recall the horror of long bus journeys, it was a mish mash of recognitions.
Of course my wonderful trio of D1, D2 and D3 (they do have real names I promise) were duly recognised, I can honestly say I would have been lost in a world of hindi confusion without them, lets’ hope they can get back to their research asap now we are to leave them alone finally.
The rest of the day was taken full advantage of by everyone, myself getting in a last minute bit of sunbathing then frantically counting and recounting and counting again all my equipment and playing a dangerous game of tetris with scalpels and other sharp implements!
Of course the highlight of our final day was a last drive through Sariska Tiger Reserve, our base camp for so many days and where all the exciting bits had happened. Of course the tigers delivered and we were treated to one last sighting of ST6 lounging in a watering hole, huge paws on the edge, completely ignoring all the frantic commotion of tourists (and veterinary tourists) staring at him desperate for a decent picture. The drive through the park afterwards let us see places we were yet to see during the teaching segment and gave everyone an opportunity to just appreciate it all for a while, nowhere to be, nothing to do and more importantly no me tapping my watch and announcing “guyssssssssss……”.
I will miss Sariska, from both a biologist point of view and a patron point of view. I have learnt a huge amount during the course of this programme, even if I was running about missing bits here and there, I’ve taken away new skills, new knowledge, new contacts and most importantly a massively new found respect for the work vets can do for conservation. I think as a biologist we are sometimes limited to thinking about research and collecting out data and running our statistics and finding out if things are significant or not, vets can bring in a whole new angle to conservation and working with biologists I am sure great things can, and will, be done; preferably by our students so we all boast where they learnt it. But I am sure even without the course their passion and intellect would have taken them onto great things, luckily we got there to give them a headstart….
Alexandra (A girl believe it or not).