Arunima Singh has spent the last decade educating over 50,000 children from rural and urban communities about the conservation of freshwater reptiles in Uttar Pradesh.

She was also awarded the NatWest Group Earth Heroes Save the Species Award 2021 for her exceptional work.

She recalls, “As a child, I would often visit the river with my grandparents to watch and observe aquatic life. I guess my inspiration comes from those visits.”

While her inspiration comes from her childhood memories, it was a visit to Kukrail Gharial Rehabilitation Center (KGRC) that set her off on this path.

“In 2011, I began doing some volunteering work with the TSA and enrolled in a small awareness and educational programme at Lucknow University for wildlife conservation,” she says.

Presently, with the help of the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department and the TSA India Program for Aquatic Biology, she has established assurance colonies for more than 10 species of turtles.

Assurance colonies are used to create various conservation programs together with breeding groups to ensure that these animals will not become extinct.

When she started building these colonies, she also started to get calls about rare and endangered species of turtles being smuggled.

“The first consignment we helped rehabilitate was around 300 spotted pond turtles (Geoclemys hamiltonii) near Etawah and Mainpuri in 2015,” she recalls.

She has also assisted the rescue, rehabilitation and release of over 28,000 turtles, 25 Gangetic dolphins, 6 marsh crocodiles and 4 gharials.

“Since 2017, we’ve helped rescue and rehabilitate thousands of turtles every year, giving them care and releasing them back into the wild,” she says.