Student Speaks Out on UVM, Environmental Policies, and Bombay

Meet Muralidharan Gautam. He is 21 years old, born in Bombay, India. This young man is not only a Wild life biology student at the School of Natural Resources at UVM but also a person with diverse interests, such as photography, extreme sports, cooking, modeling and traveling.In the beginning of our conversation Gautam told me he was going to switch his major to environmental studies, because, as he says he’s got a plan that he will not be able to accomplish without finances, that is why he needs to be an entrepreneur to make the money necessary for his plan to come true. M: So what is your plan? G: I want to make a greater contribution (monetarily mostly, but organizationally as well) than I would make at the grassroots level. I want to try to change some environmental policies concerning animals back home. For example, the policies regarding much of captive conservation of wildlife: in India it is monopolized by the Central Zoo Authority, and all the zoos in the country are public and run by government. I think this is not good; it would be much better, in my opinion to combine public and private sectors. Another problem is that, although in our culture people are brought up to respect nature, people lack the knowledge about current issues dealing with the environment. People say they love wildcats but they know so little, almost nothing about how many wildcats we even have in India (more species in one country than any other country on earth, I think, but correct me if I’m wrong) and that many of them are threatened. If I had money I’d be able to push hard merge the public and the private sector. Also I would launch a project on the conservation and/or breeding of rare wildlife found in the country, and around the world if I get ambitious. Finally, there is a lot of red tape involved in the state system that manages the zoos in India, so I would like to do something about it as well. M:How did you come to the understanding that this is your career? Why did you choose this field of study? G: I’ve loved animals all my life. And I always was lucky and had good influences. When I was a child I first was interested in reading books about animals and nature. I was crazy about them and with time I became a resource for things connected to the animals, and people could ask me questions and I would kind of just know stuff, or look it up. Then people would bring [me] sick animals to cure them and I did take care of them and kept all of them in my house. I had all kinds of animals at home. All the ones you can imagine and even some that you wouldn’t really think of. It sometimes got me in a lot of trouble and almost got me kicked out of my house a couple times by my Father. He doesn’t like animals that much. Especially when he finds bats in the freezer (it was for a post-mortem).or hears the screeching of an owl in my room.M: What was your educational experience in India like? G: I studied in Bombay all the way to the 8th grade. Then I was sent to a private boarding school in South India for three years. It was one of those “colonial British style” schools, where you are caned for misbehaving. Two years later when I was in `Junior College’ in Bombay (our equivalent of the 11th and 12th grade), I went to a college in Bombay. But I was not really happy about it, because I was studying liberal arts. I needed to work with animals. The problem was that all the good environmental programs are graduate programs in India. So I decided to talk to my dad about going to the US. I found a host family and went to California and went there to work with about 16 species of wildcats in a private, non-profit facility for 4 months. Then I went back home and started the application process I heard that UVM had a really good natural resources school. I applied to UVM and was accepted, so here I am. I’ve also found that people are ignorant in what concerns other cultures and countries. They see the world as literally “The US and the rest of the place”. Many Americans when they heard I was from India would ask me if I had a pet elephant or tiger. But there’s a lot more good things, really. M: Are there things that you like about the US? G: The School of Natural Resources is awesome. Yes, definitely there are a lot of things. I love my friends here, and the natural beauty of Vermont. The School of Natural Resources is simply amazing. The faculty there is terrific, and the closely knit, informal feel to the school is a really refreshing feeling, and really helped me get comfortable in the U.S. Overall I like America. It is an interesting place.