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About Me...

Hola! My name is Diana Zazueta, I’m 23 years old, I’m Mexican and I was one of the lucky volunteers with TRAFFIC-India, a division of WWF-India aimed to ensure that wildlife trade does not become a threat to the conservation of nature in India.
I graduated from International Relations and wish to continue with a masters in Sustainable Development. I’m really interested in conflict resolution and the creation of cooperation programs in order to promote development. I’ve always been interested in environmental conservation and I think that by studying International Relations I’ve been given the opportunity to notice that most of the problems that our world encompasses today are problems that go beyond boundaries. Environmental degradation is one of these problems. As a citizen from a developing country, I’ve also noticed that developing nations share a vast social and environmental diversity that can be used to achieve a better, or at least a worthy, quality of life. However, governments are, most of the times, focusing on the development of politics that can enable them to be part of the developed world leaving behind fundamental issues such as environmental education and preservation. While focusing on these politics, the environmental impact increases caused by the lack of international cooperation as well as by economic guidelines imposed by international institutions or simply because of production lines waiting to be imported by developed countries. What governments do not admit (or don’t want to admit) is that environmental politics are a perfect way to advance into development. Therefore, conservation groups and environmental organizations such as World Wide Fund for Nature are perfect to educate people on what they can do to improve their environment which also means improving their way of life and ensuring a better future for themselves and their relatives.

WWF’s volunteer program gives young people the opportunity to experience this reality by involving the volunteers with communities and their challenges in the path of environmental conservation.
At Jaipur "The Pink City" in the state of Rajasthan 
© WWF / Diana Zazueta
At Jaipur "The Pink City" in the state of Rajasthan
© WWF / Diana Zazueta

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Yeh hai incredible India! (This is incredible India!)
When I was chosen to volunteer with TRAFFIC-India, I did not know much about wildlife illegal trade in India. In fact I did not know almost anything about the extent of wildlife-human conflict and illegal wildlife trade anywhere, not even in my own country.
The only thing I knew (and it is kind of embarrassing to say) I had learned from Animal Planet. I didn’t know WWF had such an important participation in India. So as I waited for my Terms of Reference, I started to read and research about these huge problems and anything else that could tell me more about India.

I thought that by reading about this amazing country I was going to be more than prepared and that the experience would be easier for me as I expected to find something like Mexico where traffic jams, crowded streets, spicy food, a vast biodiversity, and an amazing cultural heritage, are just a few descriptive examples for my country. But you have no idea how different it is! First of all India has the second largest population in the world. So you can imagine the chaos, although a very interesting chaos. The streets are full of people driving and horning like crazy though it is admirable how they manage to avoid crashing almost every minute!! People and cows walk in between cars making an everyday drive to WWF-India offices an adventure of at least 30 minutes. Not only people, cows, cars, and garbage flood the streets. An amazing and interesting culture shows out on every corner of every road. Even though the general landscape in the cities are roads and buildings under construction, garbage, and lots of people, India has the most beautiful sceneries and the most amazing wildlife I’ve ever seen. You walk a few steps and you find yourself surrounded by marble mosques of thousands of years old and all kinds of temples with colorful deities that resemble animals. A few steps further you find yourself in the most beautiful gardens full of refreshing fountains, colorful birds, and tress that give off a smell I will always remember. Then you walk a bit further and you run into a bazaar that makes you feel as if you’ve travelled a hundred years back in time giving you the opportunity to experience all the sounds, colors and smells of the world in just one place. Another impressive aspect of Indian society is that inspite their rough way of life, Indians always keep a big smile on their faces and they are always willing to help (even when they just met you). All these and many more reasons is why I call India the country of contrasts. These contrasts and chaos may be, sometimes, extreme and intense for someone that comes from another country but it is always interesting to know and experience something different because these kind of experinces are the ones that enrich life.

Environmental conservation in India

India’s emergence as one of the fastest growing economies in the world confronts it with a series of challenges. It is a vast country with different geography and a population encompassing varied cultures and languages. It also has one of the vastest and richest natural habitats in the world. However, nowadays India’s vast biodiversity is facing a battle against several factors like pollution, ignorance, lack of funds, indiscriminate hunting and destruction of wildlife habitats, overgrazing, the immoderate use of grasslands for agriculture, overpopulated villages and towns encroaching wildlife natural territory, mindless use of pesticides and chemicals, illegal wildlife trade, among others. So as you can see most of India’s environmental issues come from wildlife-human conflict caused by a growig population living under unsustainble livelihoods. The development of capacity building, technology transfer, and financial support programmes to assist developing countries, like India, with the implementation of sustainable policies aimed to environmental conservation is urgent.

During my work with TRAFFIC-India I had the opportunity to do a content analysis of environmental news and to interview with several environmental journalists to discuss about this widespread problem. I came to the conclusion that environmental journalism can take, along with NGOs like WWF-India, the leadership that is needed to fight environmental degradation. Committed to the principle that accurate information drives responsible decisions by governments and individuals, environmental journalism offers an effective way to involve society in the quest of wildlife conservation and the fight against environmental degradation.
Going to India?
India is one of those countries where you can always expect the unexpected. First of all it is a country that is growing very fast and at the same time wants to keep all its traditions from changing. So the chaos I’m talking about comes from this moment of transition in all senses: economic, politic, social and cutural. The most important recommendation I would give you is to enjoy surprises and learn everything you can from the experience!!!
  • WWF India is an organization with a huge potential working in a country with great forests and other important ecosystems with very special and unique wildlife. As a volunteer try to exploit and learn from every minute you share with WWF supervisors and your work-team. This will help you to improve your knowledge and experience and will encourage you to leave your footprint in the conservation field.
  • In India, the planning of activities is sometimes left to the last minute. This may cause some problems decreasing efficiency. Be prepared for misunderstanding and remember to keep communication open, be ready to suggest and speak out.
  • During my first week in India, I can say I only understood 40% of what people were saying. The accent is a bit difficult to get at the beginning. Some people on the streets, even in large cities, don’t speak English so try to learn Hindi (numbers and basic expressions) as it really helps when you are by yourself out of town or when your go out to do field work.
  • Transportation: travelling in India is very cheap. Try to travel by auto as taxis are very expensive (and scarce). As a foreigner you should always keep in mind that auto (small taxis) drivers will always try to take advantage of you. Try to figure out with a local how many rupees you should pay for a certain distance. It is important to set the price before you get into the auto because sometimes they will try to charge more than you agreed. The metro is also a good alternative as it is clean, efficient and cheap. If you are going out of the city you can travel by train which is the cheapest way however be careful of crowds at train stations as they can get scary, specially at the times of departures.
  • Food is really good ( it always depend on how spicy you like your food). It is usually vegetarian but you can also find chicken, fish or pork. Coming from Mexico made my adaptation to the coulinary experince (hot and spicy food) easier. However, if you are not used to spicy food you should think of taking care of your stomach. I would say that I am very proud of my Mexican-street-food-proof stomach as I never fell sick. However, you should always keep in mind that cooking in India is, most of the times, not the cleanest activity. Hygienic practices are not present everywhere you go so you should always be prepared with bottled water, alcohol in gel, and some packs of cookies or chips.
  • And finally, I would tell you to leave all your expectations at home and start learning from reality. Open your eyes, return the smiles, enjoy the colors, cherish the landscapes, dance to the rhythm of sitars, eat spicy food, and enjoy every second of the experience because India is an amazing country waiting for you to discover it. Do not be afraid, spread the message and be ready to make a difference!!


Leave all your expectations at home and start learning from reality!

My photos of India