For now, I have been taking interviews of the people I have already met and known for a long time. Today, I am going to introduce you to the Monica Fatogun. I met her in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh in 2013 while working for a NGO EduCARE-India. She was working to protect forests in a small and beautiful village called Naddi. All I can say that it’s not an easy job and requires lot of physical and mental strength to be in the field. Also, we also used to share a flat along with two more friends Hanh and Albert. It was one hell of a crazy house. Annnnd the most important thing is that she introduced me to “GAME OF THRONES” and kept asking continuously if I reached a certain episode called the “Red Wedding”. Now I know why she was excited about this awesome series….
Can you please introduce yourself to the readers?
Loved the intro Nikunj, I introduced you to the Game of Thrones and taught you how to cook (a bit anyway)!!
This is Monica Fatogun aka Momo (Shout out to my EduCare squad), Mon, Moh, Monique
Hahah . That`s true. All i was eating Boiled chicken….
I have tried to explain your work in EduCARE but I am sure you can tell us more and better.
So I worked as the project manager for 2 projects, the Community and Social Forestry project and the Organic farming project. The Community Forestry project involved us reforesting some erosion prone areas around the community. There was a lot of field work involved if you remember, fencing the area, site preparation and all that.
I remembered you had left before we started the mass plantations….
I also worked with the Naddi Community children to plant and adopt fruit trees in their backyard. There were initial resistances to work but I think they came around later. Then we also had community-cleaning drives.
The second project was an organic farming project where we started a herbal garden in the community, growing medicinal plants and all. That required us to go for a 2-3 day workshop at the Himachal Pradesh Agriculture University in Palampur along with some of the children, teaching us the basics of farming and creating compost with worms. I remember it being a very fun experience.
I was at EduCare for 6 memorable months and met some awe-inspiring, friendly peeps that I still keep in touch with till now, I’m sure you do too.
That`s incredible. The things you have done are incredible and requires a lot of patience. We need people like you. Yes, Definitely, I have tried my best to stay in touch with most of the people.
Can you tell us a bit more about your career and the projects you have been involved in?
Well right from when I was 6, I always knew I liked animals, just didn’t know how I’d get to study it. I did not even know what that career path was called. My parents were open that way and gave me the freedom to choose my career. Anyway, I knew I had to go into the sciences, and then did my bachelors in Environmental Science .It was then I knew the career name before zoning my masters in Wildlife Conservation and Management. After I graduated in 2012 as a wildlife conservationist, I have been working in different aspects of conservation ever since.
I first worked as a camper and a wildlife guide in Shillong, Meghalaya where I took students and tourists to the outskirts of Shillong for camping, taking part in outdoor activities such as mountain biking, rafting, swimming, strawberry picking etc. In the morning, I would take them out to bird watch and see some cool snakes. The camping life inspired me to get all sorts of gear.
I went to Mauritius and worked as a field biologist for the Pink Pigeon Recovery Project for the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF). That involved me staying in the field (Black River Gorges National Park) 5 times a day continuously for 5 months where we were collecting data on the pink pigeons population, their supplementary feeding breeding, their mortality rate and breeding timelines. I also worked as an animal handler at the foundation’s aviary, feeding and handling some of the injured endemic species like the Pink Pigeon, Mauritian Kestrels, Echo parakeets and Mauritian bats. I also worked in other projects studying some Mauritian reptiles such as the Gunther’s Gecko, the Wolf Snake and Ornate Day Gecko.
Then I was in EduCare with you in those 2 projects before I went to Mumbai to work on a captive breeding project of the Rusty Spotted Cats (RSC) in Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivalli. The RSCs are endemic to just Sri Lanka and India and the Indian RSC population are not fully known, so based on the few that were rescued, there were efforts to increase their numbers by understanding their biology closely. That involved daily observation of the Rusty Spotted Cats in via CCTV cameras installed in their cages. I had responsibility over their maintenance and the addition of environment and food enrichments to their enclosures.
I worked there for a year before returning to Nigeria, my fatherland to work. I presently work as the Programmes Coordinator at the Lekki Urban Forest and Animal Sanctuary Initiative (LUFASI). This is a 20ha urban forest, which is one of the remaining green belts in Lagos state (Which is just like how Mumbai is with all the traffic and being a commercial capital of the country). Compared to India, a lot of work has to be done on raising awareness about environmental issues and biodiversity conservation here and that is what LUFASI strives towards. LUFASI has an active programmes department that protects the forest, nurtures an Animal Sanctuary and has an active Environmental Education unit that strives to create awareness on the phenomenon of climate change to the visitors of the park. People that want more info on this can check the website written below, at the end of the interview
Would like to continue to work in the same area?
I am presently working in Nigeria and everyone here delves into his or her second passion, or a back up job to make ends meet. Everyone!
Till now I shudder to think of doing something else. Being a wildlife conservationist is all I know! So yes I see myself being in this line of work 10 years from now.
Do you have any hobbies? Do you get enough time to pursue them?
Well I do like to listen to music, attend plays, and watch a live band. I participated in sports but sucked at all except for swimming. I honestly indulge in some when I can but this job can be really demanding, which I love and dislike at times.
What kind of activities you do to stay fit both mentally and physically?
With the amount of walking around, I have to do, that, keeps me fit.
Others are swimming and good music.
How many countries have you traveled? Which is your favorite country and why?
I have been to just 6: Russia, India, Nigeria, Kenya, Scotland and Mauritius. I don’t have a favourite but I will say I felt at home in Mauritius, the island life, good food, warm people and the economy of the country.
Any weird, surprising experience you would like to share….
I won’t say weird but I got a thrilling/adrenaline- pumping experience when I got chased by a huge Rhino once. We went into Kaziranga National Park, Assam because we (at Wildlife Trust of India) got a call that some poachers had injured a male Rhino on the leg. So while we were treating, it jumped up and began chasing us. Mind you, it was tranquilised. The forest guards all ran and pushed me and it was just me and the rhino. Thank God, it stopped running.I found it funny that we hired them to watch over us but they were the first to run.
This sounds really serious. Thank God
You are still alive and saving the planet. I am going to say again that we need people like you in the field….
I slept outside under the moonlight at the foot of a Gurudwara temple when I was in EduCare (Ask Amanpreet!). Can think of these 2 right now
I had no idea about this, but sleeping under the moonlight is not bad yeah…
What advice will you give to the sophomores or high school students who are planning to pursue their career in wild life research?
Um if you are thinking of coming to Wildlife Conservation for money, do not because everything here is fuelled by passion. You can’t think of wildlife conservation as your last choice just because you did not get through medical exams. So make sure you are mentally ready for that. It also helps to do some volunteer work, you gain confidence and your CV builds up. You should also attend Environmental/Wildlife conservation type conferences. It will be good if you join the YETI Mail list so you can get news of upcoming Workshops or volunteer/work opportunities.
Lastly, what do you want the readers to understand on the importance of wildlife, the reason you are in this?
I want people to understand that we are all a part of nature and each insect or each bird has an ecological function to play. The moment you decide to go on a rampage and kill off an entire species, you leave a void in the intricate web of life and that mostly has an indirect negative impact on us. I will give you an example, India in 2015 lost many vultures because they were feeding on cows treated with Diclofenac. The loss of Vultures led to many diseased carcasses lying around and that brought in carriers such as flies, dogs and rats. These led to an increase in feral dogs and an expenditure of over 1.5 million dollars in hospital bills for children infected with diseases that the vultures would have gotten rid of. Most of the times, the animal’s function go unnoticed until they are very few or extinct. That is what Wildlife Conservationists worldwide are striving to make people understand and it can get difficult in a country (like Nigeria) where any animal in the forest is seen as a delicacy. So we have to know that whatever we do, the way we develop, the change in weather patterns, our ignorance, dependence on non-renewables, all play a role in the survival of our animals and without them, we can be facing a scary future.
I read this spoken word by Prince Ea : Dear Future Generations and there is a line that just touches me , it says
“And to betray nature is to betray us,
to save nature, is to save us.
Because whatever you’re fighting for:
Racism, Poverty, Feminism, Gay Rights,
or any type of Equality.
It won’t matter in the least,
because if we don’t all work together to save the environment,
we will be equally extinct.”
What’s the point of talking about the interior decor of the house when the ground it rests on is falling apart?
Check out LUFASI at www.lufasi.org
Lufasipark on instagram and Fb.
Monica can be reached on : email@example.com