The Flame of the Forest
In the eye of the tiger with Suyash Keshari
In honor of World Tiger Day, Akash and Nikita Mehta, co-founders of Fable & Mane, sat down with wildlife filmmaker Suyash Keshari in light of their new partnership.
What made you decide to quit your job and become a wildlife filmmaker?
Leaving the comfort of a well-paying job especially in a country like the United States where the living standards are so high, leaving a life like that and entering a life in the wild was definitely a risk that I took. It was though, a planned risk. I wanted to be very entrepreneurial in what I do, both in terms of social entrepreneurship and business in general as well. We can create a lot of impact on conservation and people around us and at the same time make a living and create a brand and do well. Why I returned was the passion in me to tell stories of the wild. I loved my political advocacy job, but something was amiss. I always wanted to have my own wildlife film and that urge brought me back to my homeland, India. There was no other place I could think of but my beloved, Bandhavgarh National Park. The culture and people of Central India shaped my life and the person I am today.
How has your collaboration with Fable & Mane been going so far?
My collaboration with Fable and Mane is really interesting because this is the first time that I am actually collaborating with a hair care product brand. The part that I absolutely love about the collaboration is the drive to conserve wild spaces, especially tiger habitats with the help of the ‘Fable Fund’. Both Nikita and Akash are incredible social entrepreneurs and I am very lucky to be a part of this journey!
Do you give importance to the ingredients in your products, and if they are vegan or cruelty-free?
Yes, I do give a lot of importance to the ingredients of the products that I use. I always try using products that are organically sourced, vegan and cruelty-free. Unfortunately, there aren’t very many brands in India that emphasise on that and partnering up with Fable and Mane has helped me open my eyes a lot more and now when I buy products, mainly local, I make sure to interact with their founders and discuss how they can make their products more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
What is your hair care/self-care ritual?
My haircare ritual is pretty simple. I wash and condition my hair daily. And now that I am using the Fable and Mane products, it has left a really positive impact on my hair health. It seems now that hair is more flowy in front of the camera nowadays (chuckles). Also, for me oiling my hair is very very important because I spend almost 250 days in a year out in the field and the dust and the sun really damaging my hair. I have been using the hair oil from Fable and Mane lately and it’s been working wonders. My self care routine involves a lot of good sleep, reading a good book and definitely spending time in solitude away from my phone. And yes and cup of green tea is very important.
What are some recent achievements that you are proud of?
Out of recent achievements, the launch of the Safari with Suyash- TV, world’s first OTT platform dedicated to wildlife and India’s first ever Virtual Safari has to be on top of my mind. I wanted to create something like this for the past three years and finally in October last year, we were able to launch it, and it was like a dream come true for me.
Secondly, the launch of the Conservation Merchandise line was a huge success, as with the proceeds of that and a few donations from our generous patrons, we were able to build two waterholes in deficit areas of Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh, and they are thriving. When I saw tigers in the waterhole for the first time I couldn't hold back my tears.
I am really grateful to have been named as the young blood in Top 5 Wildlife Professionals in the country. And lastly one thing that I am really proud of is the donation of solar lamps, bags and shoes to all 175 anti-poaching camps in Bandhavgarh National Park in association with Fable and Mane, helping over 400 forest guards. It always feels very wholesome to have helped the people and the land where you grew up in, where most of your work is.
What are the main threats that wildlife, particularly tigers, faces nowadays?
The main threats that wildlife, including tigers face these days are poaching and habitat loss. With rapid growth and development, we are encroaching upon vital protected areas and hence forcing the animals out of their natural habitat into human settlements. This often leads to human animal conflicts, and it doesnt end well for either of them. Wildlife corridors are key for species such as tigers to move from one protected area to the other to establish territories, look for prey base etc. With the corridors diminishing, the tigers are fighting for space and territorial fights are increasing. Despite all the stringent laws and protection, till date several tigers along with other species are ruthlessly poached. The demand of tiger parts, from South east Asian countries for traditional medicine and conflicts with villagers over cattle kills are two prevalent causes for most cases of poaching.
How can people help preserve wildlife?
We have to understand that not everyone can be involved directly with frontline conservation of wildlife. Hence, what I always suggest people is to donate or be a part of conservation outreach programs by NGOs, fundraising programs etc. Organisations such as WWF, Wildlife Protection Society of India, Wildlife Trust of India, do some incredible job in wildlife conservation.
I too started my own Conservation Merchandise Line last year with the aim to help people be a part of conservation. 100 % profits from the sale of these merchandise products were used to make waterholes in the deficit areas of Bandhavgarh. Today, after the completion of the waterholes, it is frequented by several species of animals, including tigers.
What are your next projects?
The idea, for now, is to expand the ‘Safari with Suyash- TV’ platform as much as possible along with our merchandise line. The focus would lie on connecting people with nature, whether virtually or physically with safaris and tours. For me, there’s still a long way to go and a lot more to do and connect more and more people to nature and wildlife on the way.
To know more about the Fable Fund and how you can help preserve wildlife, visit our dedicated page.
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