Dr. Sarita Subramaniam, Director, Earth Brigade Foundation our Lumiere Learning Monday guest, is a multi-faceted professional who raises the bar in everything she does. A dentist with over 32 years of experience, Sarita describes herself as an “incurable animal lover, nature aficionado, forest conserver, animal activist, tiger savior, and philanthropist”.
Born to pet-loving parents, Sarita grew up in a tiny urban apartment with pet dogs. The close bond with dogs and their way of life has continued to help her forge enriching bonds with animals, wild or tamed.
While she would have liked to be a veterinarian, fate determined that she would become a dental surgeon in Mumbai, India. She has, however, frequently extended her professional dentistry talents to treating dogs and cats in dental distress with the help of veterinarians. In a Veterinarian’s clinic in Mumbai. She is perhaps the only human dentist who routinely does root canal treatments on dogs and cats.
Holidays in Sanctuaries
Before her marriage, Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai was the only wildlife park Sarita had visited. Early on in her marriage, her nature lover dentist husband, Dr, Subramanian. He took the puzzled Sarita to Bandhavgarh National Park and later Kanha National Park. This completely changed her life and a spark was lit in finding a life purpose. Sarita and Subbu regularly traveled to national parks (mostly tiger sanctuaries) across India from Arunachal Pradesh to Kanyakumari, for their annual holidays.
Making Eyes with the Tiger
As a child, Dr. Sarita was fond of elephants. She liked visiting temples in Kerala with her family, which mostly had elephants and rode on them. As she grew in sensitivity, she could no longer relate to elephants in captivity. Today Sarita is passionate about the tiger. She is trying to save as many remaining species of tigers as possible. According to her, when a tiger, “an umbrella species” is protected, we not only save its habitat but also help protect other species that are lower in the food chain. Protecting/ Conserving the habitat is as important as saving the animal.
From Nature Lover to Activist
Nature Lover to Activist
She became an activist before she started the NGO. It was Ustad, the Tiger, who stirred the activist in her. The Tiger was taken away to the zoo from the national park because he killed four people. She started learning more about wildlife and its protection. She did a candle march and spoke to bureaucrats to send Ustad back into the wild. Sarita failed in her efforts to give Ustad his freedom, but it became the fuel for starting her NGO Earth Brigade Foundation.
Avani was a tigress who had allegedly killed nine people, and thus, the officials gave orders to shoot her. Sarita learned about this from one of her sources and joined the fight to save Avani. She resonated with Avani because she was a mother with two cubs. The Supreme Court overturned her plea. Later she went to the people to continue to fight. There were many discrepancies in the facts stated as the basis for killing Avani. They filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), and the courts were not convinced. Within ten days of losing the PIL, Avani was shot dead. Sarita and her Earth Brigade Foundation continue to fight to bring justice to Avani and her two cubs in the Nagpur court.
NGO, Charity and other Works
Sarita founded her NGO. Earth Brigade Foundation and carried out all the operations from the NGO. She has installed over 50 solar-powered drinking water plants in forests like Corbett, Kanha, etc. all over India. The animals feel safe when they find water near them in their habitat. They also don’t wander unnecessarily searching for water, which would lead them to step out of their forest habitat and become a target for humans.
Sarita and Subbu distribute solar lamps in rural areas for women and children. Due to their crouched posture, men and women who go to the forest for their ablutions are easy prey to the animals. They cannot afford battery-operated flashlights and use kerosene lamps which are dangerous.