Sanjeev Gohil started losing his vision 12 years ago. But this did not stop him from climbing rocks or rescuing snakes and even leopards! Here is all you need to know about the inspiring wildlife activist and adventure junkie.
When most kids in school were busy catching kites, Sanjeev Gohil loved recuing snakes. He would rescue snakes and other wild animals and hand them over to forest department to safely release them in the wild again.
Of course the family was worried and did not appreciate Gohil’s risky passion, but he was not one to take an ordinary course.
“I was always passionate about wildlife and nature. My school was surrounded by forests, and I would bunk my Maths classes to see various animals and rescue nearby lost snakes and other wild animals,” he says.
What makes Gohil’s story unique and all the more inspiring is Stargardt – a rare disease that causes progressive vision loss, usually to the point of legal blindness. “I was born with perfect vision. But gradually I developed vision complications. Today, though I am unable to see, I don’t take it as a challenge. It has not affected my life much,” Gohil says.
Gohil had to discontinue his graduation mid-way due to low vision, but he did not let it stop him from following what he enjoyed the most. He continued going on some of the riskiest treks in India, successfully finished several rock climbing trips and rescued some of the most dangerous wildest animals like lions, leopards and crocodiles even at the odd hours.
When we asked him how he managed to do all of this with such low vision, he had a simple answer, “It is my passion. Also I have been working in this field for around 20 years now. Though I cannot see the rocks, but I can touch and feel them to get a grip. Slowly, and with practice, I have gained expertise in this field,” he says.
Three years ago, he went for rock climbing with three other friends to survey the vultures which are on the verge of extinction. Due to many honeycombs, the rock was slippery and the team could not finish climbing it within the stipulated time. As a result, they had to spend the entire night on a 2′ x 2′ platform which was around 300 feet from the ground level. “I still remember the day. We did not even have a single drop of water with us. All four of us anchored each other and spent the entire night there without moving,” he says.
This is one example of the hundreds of adventurous things he has done in his life. His achievements also include catching a man-eater leopard and releasing him in the wild. Determined to live his life to the fullest, Gohil does not let his disability come in the way.
“My family and I never considered this a challenge. Of course, now I cannot do bird watching like I used to do before, where I recognized the birds through their colours and wings. But now, I can recognize them through their call. Also, I cannot spot a wild animal, but I can still feel its presence and hear its growling and I can still feel the air and the fresh environment. I continue to do the same activities which I used to do before,” he says.
He had to quit his job due to low vision and that;s when he started freelancing with various NGOs to help people with disabilities find suitable jobs. “At present I do not have a job myself. I am looking for a good employment opportunity and trying to find something that suits me,” he says.
In the future, he plans to keep himself engaged with all the wildlife activities and activism that he does. “It is not as easy as it looks. People might find it exciting from the outside. But you have to wait for several hours without moving just to get a small glimpse of an animal. There is a lot of hard work involved,” he says.
His two cents? “Whatever you do, do it with passion!” he concludes. Sanjeev is a perfect example of how a setback cannot affect a strong willpower and dedication.