RSIF Grantee Update: Sethu Parvathy
Sethu Parvathy is a 2017 RSIF Small Projects Grantee. During the past year she has been working effortlessly towards conserving the endangered purple frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis) by building a positive relation with indigenous communities in Western Ghats, India. Read about her efforts below
Loving a frog
Well, it was an all Kerala trip (not technically, visited only the purple frog’s distribution range in the Western Ghats) and the Ravi Sankaran Inlaks Fellowship made it possible. I set out to visit tribal schools across the Purple frog’s (Nasikabatrachussahyadrensis) range during the monsoon. Isn’t it an odd time to visit schools? In all that rain? Not at all! Anytime the frogs come out and call is the best time!
It’s quite clear to me that you must be puzzled with what I was up to. My team and I were ready with our equipment - a bunch of story books, stickers, a projector, a speaker and a black cloth. Yes, it’s not the standard set of equipments for a wildlife researcher but for this project we turned educators. ‘Educator’ seems a very fancy word. Let’s replace it with ‘performer’ because that was what I did. I performed a story for the tiny tots who gazed at me wide-eyed, always!
This was part of a campaign to make children love frogs, especially the Purple Frog, which is known among numerous indigenous communities in the Western Ghats for several generations before its formal scientific discovery in 2003. The purple frog is a burrowing frog and it comes out of the soil only for two weeks to breed. For decades, this frog has been part of the communities’ cuisine and traditional medicine. A book reading campaign and a visual presentation campaign was designed for children from indigenous communities in Kerala, across the distribution range of the Purple frog. A total of 1597 children from 31 schools participated in the campaign that was conducted at eight of the fourteen districts in Kerala. Apart from the campaign, we also conducted surveys to understand whether the campaign led to improved appreciation of the Purple frog. The appreciation towards Purple frog improved by 50% among the lower primary children and 150% among the upper primary children after the campaign.
And that was success! A story where a little girl makes friends with the Purple frog and visuals of different frog species and their unique habitats made this possible. If the above percentages quantitatively indicate the project’s success, there were several other indicators which were not quantifiable. Like when we visited a school, the children rushed to show us the new pond they had made for frogs or when they said they had stopped throwing stones at frogs on the road and that they wanted to see more frogs. This project is truly a story of ‘yuck’ to ‘love’.
All images are courtesy Sethu Parvathy.