Three remarkable women are setting a new trend. A trend that urges females to venture out into the wild and inspires people to combat wildlife trafficking.
Onkuri Majumdar, Juliana Machado Ferreira and Molly Ferrill share a passion for wildlife conservation and are all a part of the Freeland team, whether it is Freeland Bangkok, India or Brazil. Despite their similarities, together they are an amalgam of different disciplines and backgrounds that work towards one shared goal.
You could call them trailblazers, innovators, or my personal favourite, wildlife warriors. There are an endless amount of words that try to explain the full extent of who they are and what they do. To say the least, they are not afraid to get their hands dirty. They want to see an end to wildlife trafficking and nothing is more empowering than the passion that they embody.
Onkuri Majumdar is the Managing Director of Freeland India and was also named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer this year. She has also been selected as an Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leader and featured in the Crimes Against Nature series by National Geographic.
She earned these well-deserved titles through her extensive work on investigations against tiger trafficking, illegal pet trade, wildlife crime cases and creating training courses for enforcement officials. Her experience in the field is astounding. If being charged by rhinos, encountering wild tigers and going undercover to catch vendors selling illegal wildlife is not considered “kick-ass”, then I don’t know what is.
Already an empowering role model through her actions alone, Onkuri also has great words of encouragement for females considering a career in this field. “Go for it! You’d be surprised how many women there are in this sector. There are many courses which would put you on the right track: conservation biology and environment studies, for instance, and then you can go on to do higher research in field biology studying many different species. And for new graduates, there are some great internship opportunities.”
Juliana Machado Ferreira is the Executive Director and Field Operations Coordinator of Freeland Brasil and was a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2014, which granted her $10,000 for her research and exploration.
She is a conservation biologist so you can find her conducting research in the lab, in the field alongside the police and SOS Fauna during raids or on stage educating the public. It was with SOS Fauna where she discovered her interest in birds.
Ending wildlife trafficking is a vital factor in Juliana’s ultimate goal of conserving biodiversity and ecosystems. “I think we can do it. I think we are doing it,” she says about combatting wildlife trafficking. I have every reason to believe this is true because she pioneered her own PhD research on the illegal trade of wild bird species in Brazil. She faced negativity due to the unprecedented nature of her research, which went against the Brazilian tradition of owning wild birds. However, now many projects are following suit.
Molly Ferrill is the Digital Media Producer of Freeland Bangkok who utilizes documentation as a tool to participate in wildlife conservation. Her passion for wildlife along with her passion for photography, writing and filmmaking, work hand in hand when she is out in the field.
One of her unforgettable memories in the field is when she documented an intense, two-month training with Thailand’s elite counter poaching team designed to combat a serious conservation issue in Thailand. She loves that she had the opportunity to document an important initiative that could be shown as an example to other countries dealing with similar poaching and trafficking issues.
Other notable adventures include underwater filming in Koh Chang, camping in the Serengeti, sleeping overnight in hammocks, participating in investigations and marine operations training, learning survival skills in the jungle and even parachute jumping. She meets every challenge with unrelenting enthusiasm, which pretty much sums up her gutsy character.
More recently, as a National Geographic Young Explorer, Molly took several trips to Myanmar to document the conservation of elephants and the role that humans play in the lives of these large animals. She believes that documenting the elephants can act as a portal to spread awareness about conserving wildlife as a whole.
The stories of these women evoke a sense of inspiration and motivation in all of us. This is exactly what “trendsetters” do. They act as catalysts for change by working hard in their respective fields and encouraging us to follow their lead. It is a trend unlike any other because it will only grow from here.
by Natalie Kang