Priyanka has always been passionate about wildlife and has worked in different aspects of wildlife conservation including publications, field research, education and policy. She found her true calling at Zoo Outreach Organisation, where she is a researcher working on projects concerning threatened species, freshwater policies, and illegal wildlife trade. She also works on the peer-reviewed, open access Journal of Threatened Taxa as an associate editor.


The following AMA session took place on our Telegram group.

Cover Photo byΒ David Clode.

Discussion

109 Comments
  • Mango Education

    I guess a few kids already know about you. But to start off the session, we’d like to know about you and your work at ZOO. As a wild life researcher, what do you do at Zoo Outreach Organisation?

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      As a wild life researcher, I learn about wildlife by reading research papers, books and talking to experts. I go to wildlife sanctuaries and national parks with rivers, forests and oceans to observe and record wildlife. I talk about wildlife with forest department officials, communities that interact with wildlife on a daily basis to understand their experiences. I use all this information to understand wildlife and conserve it.

        • priyankazoo
          priyankazoo

          I have been interested in nature with all its colours, beauty and diversity since I was a child. And as a child I used to get distracted easily and could not stick to one subject but in wildlife things were a little different. All the oceans of information and diversity always kept me curious, inspired and interested. I guess to summarise, I can say : Its the magic of reality!

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    Mithun Mohan

    Hello! I would like to ask one! How can we as a common person conserve existing forests?

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      You can conserve forests by – 1. learning/reading about Indian forests, 2. visiting forests around you, 3. meeting experts and volunteering your time with conservation organisations.

      • priyankazoo
        priyankazoo

        Hmm…interesting question! In the past there have been many reasons from very large volcanos to asteroids. But today, I am sorry to say that it is us humans that are having the most detrimental impacts on other species. Our growing demands on a finite planet are causing species extinctions everyday. But there are some rays of hope and maybe one day mankind will develop a cyclic system with zero waste! fingers crossed!

        • Mango Education

          Humans might be a destructive species today. But what is your opinion on de-extinction? If viable options exist, which extinct species would be the right choice to resurrect into this world?

          • priyankazoo
            priyankazoo

            This is a tricky one! But I will answer based on my understanding. My opinion is not to bring extinct species back. To start with, species that have gone extinct have gone extinct for a reason. Until and unless that reason is no longer present spending resources on resurrecting species is pointless. Secondly, depending on how far we go, there may not be a viable habitat available for the extinct species. Thirdly, we do not have complete information on any species that has gone extinct and even if we do manage to collect that information, there is no way to predict how an extinct species is brought will react to the existing scenario.

              • priyankazoo
                priyankazoo

                Oh yes! I am a big fan of jurassic park and of course dinosaurs that ruled the earth for so many million years!

            • Mango Education

              But on a serious note, if we know enough about the extinct fellas and we do resurrect a species. Isn’t it something constructive for the first time ever? I mean… If we have enough resources to resurrect a species, don’t you think we might also build habitats for them.

              • priyankazoo
                priyankazoo

                Hmm…that is an interesting perspective and I dont mean to bring negativity, But i would reiterate myself saying that we are at present unable to preserve species that are on the verge of extinction. The motivation for pooling resources to bring back extinct species seems unlikely, let alone extinct habitats. The planet is stretched thin to keep resources available for man on one side and all other species on the other side.

  • Mango Education

    You’d worked in a diverse spectrum of wildlife now. What’s your most interesting experience with an animal or a bird or a lake/sea monster? Chases. Bites. Animal vs human standoff. Anything like that?

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      Ha ha ha!! I like the sea monsters, and I wish I had some experiences with those, but alas! My experiences: When I was studying migratory birds in Tamil Nadu, I had the opportunity to hold a small bird called a Little Stint and feel its warm body and feel its rapid heartbeat. This bird comes all the way from Siberia and arctic Europe travelling for 5000km to spend the winter in India. The sheer thought of this 12cm tiny winged visitor in my hands was an interesting and awe-inspiring experience.

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      Never!!! There is so many things to explore in the natural world that there is always something new to learn and get inspired by. There are days when I get bogged down by the issues in conservation but when I see the spark and interest in the next generation, all these emotions vanish.

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      Definitely! In fact it already is, in more ways than one. one example: Today we use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (one of them being drones) to monitor forests that are inaccessible to us humans.

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      Hmm…this is not so easy. In India, forest areas were cleared by people to make space for farming and feed this large and populous country. So first we need to have an understanding of why forests were cleared in the first place and what is that cleared space being used for now. Once that is understood and taken into account methods can be developed.

  • Avatar
    Srinivas Padmanaban

    How is a western diamond backed rattlesnake different from the eastern diamond backed rattlesnake

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      Hmm…well, I am sorry to say I do not know since they are not found in India and I have never seen either of them. They are found in North America and Mexico.

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      Well this is a matter of perspective. If we continue the way we are and take no steps towards conservation, yes! But since we are taking efforts there is still hope. And I am hoping that children like you will take it forward after my days!

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      They eat small micro-life forms living in the sand. SO in essence when you see it looks like they are eating sand. And they poop out clean sand πŸ™‚ They are nutrient recyclers

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      So although this question seems simple it has a layered answer. India has many different zones – desserts, wetlands, grasses, high elevation forests (like in Himalayas) and wet evergreen forests (northeast India) and dry grasslands and forests (Coimbatore). So India does not need more tress but as Indian we need to understand that every habitat type or zone is equally important. These zones are what give us the diversity of animals. But if you want to contribute on an individual scale, plant native trees in your garden. Trees that are from India – jackfruit, Indian rain tree and others

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    Mithun Mohan

    They say that cell phone towers damage the habitat of sparrows and they are the reason that sparrows are on the verge of extinction. Can you please say how this works?

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      Hmm.. so firstly, sparrows are not native to india and were introduced by the British. And I am yet to com across concrete evidence on the effect of telephone towers on sparrows.

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    Aditya Radhakrishnan

    Hi! I saw a video by MinuteEarth recently that discussed Panda conservation. The video explained that Pandas are really difficult to take care of and are basically useless when it comes to their positive impact on the environment. While Pandas are no longer endangered, they’ll still require human intervention to maintain this (if my understanding is correct). Considering the fact that we spend billions on Panda conservation, should we ditch them and focus on more important animals?

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      Very interesting. I am not sure about the video since I have not seen it myself but Pandas do require a lot of help when they are in captivity. In the wild they are perfectly fine and do play the important role of keeping bamboo plants in check among other things. Pandas have been assessed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In other words they are still threatened in the wild so they definitely need conservation efforts.

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    Indhu Shankar

    Hi ma’am.. happy women’s day.. I read about brood theft by ants.. how can ants think like a human (as a child labour)…

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      Hmm…so ants are among the most fascinating animals, similar to many other insects that luve in colonies. Thre is a lot we dont understand about their behaviour. You are right that ants dont think like humans at all, in fact they smell with their antennae using chemicals released by other ants. Ants almost always function based on what is the greater good of the colony and not necessarily the individual. So in this case carrying off the brood is free labour which is the good of the colony.

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      This is their main contribution and one of the most important ones. They are also food for other snail like marine molluscs called gastropods.

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      Tigers are magnificent animals that are poached for their skin. They are also poached for their bones to be used in traditional chinese medicine, although there is no evidence for their bones to have any medicinal value.

        • priyankazoo
          priyankazoo

          I fell in love with wildlife as a child. And I am sure that you understand that when you love something you want it to be with you for a long time. This is what inspired me to conserve wildlife!

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    Indhu Shankar

    Asked by my daughter, Shayana.😊.. how can an African Grey parrot speak 800 words..

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      Hi Shayana, African Grey Parrots have specific kind of voice box/larynx and tongue that allows them to speak words πŸ™‚

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      I dont know about counting, but I have seen experiments where crows have shown problem solving abilities.

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      India has about 54 mammals that live only in India. But animals I dont know since it includes all animals groups (insects, mammals, birds, reptiles etc)

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      They are not necessarily venomous but some of them use chemicals that can give a nasty burn.

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      Well, all conservationists will first have a part to celebrate. But on a serious note, the resources spent to stop poaching will be spent on other species that need conservation.

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      Very complex question. Extinction of dinosaurs gave mammals the opportunity to flourish so it is difficult to say. But changes in the environment mostly cause d by humans, at the rate it is happening today, is ensuring that species dont have enough time to adapt to the changing environments.

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    Indhu Shankar

    Aunty, when I was in Thailand (Phuket) last year, one of the guide said the saliva of swallow bird will be eaten by people, is it true??

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      Yes, In Andman and Nicobar Islands we have the edible nest swiftlet. These swiftlets make their nest using saliva and this nest is harvested and used to make soups.

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      In Indian scenario, I am against hunting. Butin other parts of the world the situation is a little different, especially in places like Africa where the people do not have access to food as easily as in India.

      • Avatar
        Mithun Mohan

        By hunting, some of the rare species are on the verge of extinction. Some are already extinct. I am asking about your views on this

        • priyankazoo
          priyankazoo

          That is a challenge and India has a policy against hunting many animals called the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, to protect animals from getting hunted to extinction. Change in hunting behaviour requires a long term behaviour change study which is being done by some of my colleagues to make hunters aware of the consequences of their actions. In fact today many hunting communities are helping to document nature and supporting conservation.

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      Yes they do conduct photosynthesis but they live in nutrient poor soil and so they supplement their nutrient requirement with insects etc.

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      Arulmozhi Ramesh

      Venomous snakes are species of the suborder Serpentes that are capable of producing venom, which is used primarily for immobilizing prey and defense mostly via mechanical injection by fangs.

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    Aditya Radhakrishnan

    Are lobsters really biologically immortal? Or is it just some hocus-pocus?

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      The heaviest animal is the Blue Whale. Not sure about the bird, possibly a vulture/condor or a Crane.

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    Mithun Mohan

    Some of the things we use today(many things in fact) are animal products. I heard a speech from an animal welfare organisation head that no animal product comes from that animal without shedding a drop of blood. Is this true?

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      Not always necessary, depends on the product extracted. Cows are harvested for milk but they dont shed blood, similarly there are other animals. But there are cases where animals are harmed to extract their secretions.

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    Kokila Shree Vickneswaran

    How can humans and animals co-exist each other without hurting each other?

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      In the wild, animals constantly hurt each other and eat each other. That is how the system ensures that no species dominates a landscape. But since there is control mechanism for human population there is an imbalance. If a balance is restored the system will function fine.

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      Bears are dangerous and very strong. They may look unassuming but do not let them fool you. Mother bears can be aggressive when she is trying to protect her cubs. Sloth bears for instance are very unpredictable and we as wildlife researcher always avoid encounters with them.

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      It is an important procedure when a species has been reduced to very small numbers. Of course it has to be undertaken very responsibly and there are very strict guidelines, ethics and protocols in place for the same.

  • Mango Education

    We have come to the end of the session. Thank you so much Priyanka. You’ve been patient with all the questions. Before we close this session, can you recommend some fiction and non-fiction books for the kids here?

    • priyankazoo
      priyankazoo

      Some authors who have been nature lovers: Non-fiction:Gerald Durrell books are all amazing for kids, one that I am fond of is “Birds, Beasts and Relatives”. Fiction: Silverwing series of three books by Kenneth Opel is very lovely read.

      Thank you very much everyone! It has been a great session for me too, thoroughly enjoyed it.

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