World Elephant Day: Meet Reed Nirula of Wildlife SOS
World Elephant Day is an international holiday dedicated to the preservation and protection of the world’s elephants, a cause so close to my heart, it’s in my logo!
We’re donating 20% of our proceeds today to Wildlife SOS,
a nonprofit in India that is committed to the survival of elephants, bears, leopards, and more. I met one of the board members, Reed Nirula, years ago, and am so inspired by her story I wanted to share it with you. Read about Wildlife SOS, check out our animal-inspired collections, and join us in our commitment to saving these amazing creatures.
What brought you to this cause?
I was drawn to Wildlife SOS because of the intelligent, methodical and dedicated approach the founders have taken to addressing man/animal conflict. In India often there are no obvious, easy solutions to wildlife conflict because the problems have many layers- environmental encroachment, poverty, politics, bureaucracy, and the education limitations of the human population further complicate the challenges of working to save wild animals. Kartick and Geeta realized early on that to help the animals, you have to also help the people, and they committed their lives to that cause and live it everyday.
As board members, my husband Arjun and I do what we can to support and amplify the work that Kartick and Geeta and their regionally-based teams are doing in service of India's wildlife.
Reed wearing her Wildlife SOS hat.
What's something about elephants most people don't know?
When elephants are in the wild, they communicate frequently, touching and calling to each other. Now, once an elephant has been held in captivity for some time, this behavior will stop. They're often isolated which is unnatural to them, and they cease to act the way that they would normally do in a healthy, natural environment. One of the most gratifying sounds you can hear, as a volunteer or supporter, is the sound of newly introduced elephants regaining this communication behavior in our centers. As they make friends with their new acquaintances and form bonds, reconnecting with their own kind, the long sustained silence is broken by friendly, late-night familial trumpeting across the darkened plains. In these moments, we know that they know they are not alone anymore.
How has Covid-19 affected Wildlife SOS?
I'm sure it comes as no surprise to learn that Covid -19 has affected Wildlife SOS - is there anything that hasn't been affected!? Firstly, we have implemented procedural precautions to keep our animal population from getting sick. Existing sanitization protocols have been scaled up and our centers have been closed to visitors during this time to protect our vulnerable creatures.
Of course, there are additional financial implications for us this year - whether it be a donor base that is themselves facing financial hardship, or just the reality that there are a lot of worthy causes in the world competing for attention from a limited donor pool; nonetheless, elephants, bears and tigers still eat the same amount of food everyday, still require medicine, the children we sponsor still need books and uniforms, and the centers still require full staffing to run properly. Our expenses haven't diminished. In fact, they have increased. Sky-rocketing costs of medical and food supplies, additional expenses in the form of PPE for all of our staff, plus an uptick in calls to our urban centers regarding animals in distress have all conspired to overburden the system.
How is it living in India? Any good stories to share?
There is never a dull moment living in India; there's so much to discover and explore. My most important initial discovery was my husband Arjun, and in making my life with him, many more adventures have come. Personally, for better or worse, mostly they've been of the entertaining variety, which serves us both well in our "day jobs" in Mumbai's Bollywood industry.
By contrast, almost all of our animals at Wildlife SOS have had harrowing origin stories and rescues. Gunshots, car chases, riots, injuries, you name it! I will tell you the specifics when you come and visit us.