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Gerard Martin, The Gerry Martin Project

Could you state your name and the organisation you work for/ founded;

My Name is Gerard Martin. I founded ‘The Gerry Martin Project’.

When was the organisation founded?

We’ve been in existence for four years now. We are being registered as a non-profit organisation in November 2013. However, we’ve been functioning as a company for two years now and have demonstrated that conservation can be a viable source of livelihood.

What is your position or role in the organisation?

I am the Founder Director and I conceptualise, coordinate and implement all our projects along with my team of 6 people.

What are the main goals of your organisation?

We focus on community-engaged conservation, finding avenues and solutions in areas of conflict between humans and wildlife. Our primary focus right now is the snakebite issue in India where we lose between 40 and 50 thousand people each year to venomous snakebite.

Could you tell us something about recent projects?

  1. Our work in snakebite is multi-pronged. We are collecting venom from different geographic areas to assess the potency and establish the level of efficacy of the existing antivenom. We also train snake rescuers around the country and help medical staff with up to date methods and protocols for the effective treatment of snakebite.
  2. We’ve just acquired a hundred acres of forestland to set up a research and conservation field station. It is a lowland evergreen forest that is very disturbed but teeming with wildlife and tremendous Herpetofauna diversity. We are going to begin setting up the field station in January 2014 and have already begun our inventories of the area. We will be working in the three rural schools there, improving the infrastructure, changing the curriculum and training the teachers in relevant teaching methodologies.
    We’ll also be providing the local residents with avenues for alternate and sustainable livelihoods to mitigate the human-wildlife conflict that exists in the area. There’s a lot to be done there. But, once we’ve got things going, change will be very evident and the model that we will create will be replicable in other regions.
  3. In Bangalore, we are setting up another citizen project to protect and monitor various populations of slender loris.
  4. We are creating baseline data about the species of amphibians and reptiles around a lake in Bangalore city that we’ve recently been involved in reviving and protecting.
  5. Over the last three years, we have supported three Masters’ level wildlife biology students with equipment and financial support for their dissertations and fieldwork.

What is in your opinion the biggest success of your organisation since it started?

This would undoubtedly be the showcasing of responsible business in the conservation field. From our inception, we have put between 40 and 60% of our earnings into conservation and research-based efforts. We have also impacted wildlife rescuers in four states, trained doctors in rural medical facilities throughout two districts and are well on our way to set up our first field station.

Do you have any specific goals in the near future?

Our current focus points include setting up the field station, the rest of the snakebite work around the country, creating conservation models in and around cities (like the lake work and the slender loris work), working with and training Forest Department staff in snake conflict mitigation, etc.

Our clear cut goal is to achieve all this through sustainable processes while making a living for the people involved so that we are able to steam not only our own projects and efforts but those of others who are doing good work in the area.

Why is your work so important ?

Ours work spans a host of different fields that are brought together to effect conservation objectives. Unlike a lot of the other conservation efforts in India, ours strives to involve grass-root level stakeholders and communities so that they can benefit from conservation in a way that is both direct and tangible.

Showcasing this kind of conservation in India will demonstrate that we can work with the 1.2+ billion people in the country and harness resources from all of them once they buy in to conservation processes. With that level of widespread ownership, the scope of what can be achieved is tremendous.

Could you give an idea, what organisations like the Herpetofauna foundation, can contribute to your work?

We need a lot of support in the form of equipment, expertise and spreading the word. Any funds we will receive will go directly into our projects or be channelled to people who are doing important work.

How can people get involved in your work?

One of the ways in which we raise funds for our work is to take people on incredible and real wildlife experiences from trips to Komodo and herping in Thailand to volunteering at our various projects and heading out looking for king cobras. Getting people to enrol on these trips would help us raise the funds that we need to allocate to our projects.

We also have a really interesting volunteer program where people can come in for periods longer than a month and be part of our various projects. This not only funds the projects they are volunteering at but also provides the much needed man-power to accomplish the objectives of whichever initiative.