Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir’s only female wildlife rescuer, Aaliya Mir who works as a project manager with Wildlife SOS, a non-governmental organisation established in 1995 to protect and conserve India’s natural heritage, forests and wildlife, has been awarded by the administration for her work and conservation efforts.
Aaliya, a wildlife conservationist has become the first woman from J&K to be felicitated with an award for her conservation efforts in the region.
She received the award from Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on the International Day of Forests event held by the Department of Forest, Ecology and Environment of the J&K government.
Aaliya was felicitated with an award in recognition of her efforts spanning diverse aspects of wildlife conservation.
This includes the rescue and release of wild animals, treatment of injured animals, human-wildlife conflict mitigation, and managing two bear rescue centres in Kashmir.
Despite having rescued Asiatic black bears, Himalayan brown bears, birds, leopards and other mammals, Aaliya is best known for her work with snakes.
Over the years, she has rescued snakes from the most unlikely places like kitchens, lawns, gardens and toilets of residences, government buildings and offices, school and university premises, and from tyres and engines of vehicles.
One particular instance made headlines when the Wildlife SOS team led by Mir rescued a Levantine viper – a highly venomous snake – from the chief minister’s residence in an hour-long operation and safely released it back into the wild.
“This was one of the heaviest vipers that we had encountered and weighed around 2 kg,” Aaliya said.
Despite the stern stigma and a deep-rooted fear of snakes, Aliya built credibility among local communities through continued rescue efforts.
In May 2021, Wildlife SOS launched a wildlife rescue helpline under Aliya’s leadership.
The NGO works closely with the J&K Wildlife Protection Department in handling rescue calls to save snakes and other wild animals.
Aliya and her team also manage two bear rescue centres in Dachigam and Pahalgam, which house eight bears that include both Asiatic Black bears and Himalayan Brown bears.
She displays her expertise in ex-situ conservation of wild animals.
Additionally, Aliya has participated in various revolutionary surveys including the Hangul (Kashmir Stag) census and the annual Asian Waterbird census.
She has also worked on human-wildlife conflict extensively, especially on the human-leopard conflict in the north division of Kashmir.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Aaliya said that she was humbled and thankful to the administration for recognising her efforts and work.
“I am grateful to the J&K Wildlife Protection Department and the J&K government for recognising my commitment towards protecting India’s precious wildlife through Wildlife SOS and for bestowing this prestigious award on me. Wildlife SOS’ work is important because we want to educate people. It is crucial to understand that taking the life of an animal should not be a resort at all. There are other, better ways to handle and mitigate conflict. It is very rewarding when after a workshop, someone comes forward from the crowd and promises that they won’t cause any damage to nature or pledges to not harm any wild animal,” she said.
Co-founder and CEO of Wildlife SOS Kartick Satyanarayan said, “Wildlife SOS is at the forefront of women empowerment and this particular recognition is a testament to Aaliya’s leadership qualities and skills. She has played the most important role in the outreach of our conservation efforts in this region. Working on various aspects of wildlife and biodiversity conservation for nearly 15 years, she has been a role model and inspiration for all women who aspire to be conservationists in future.”