Packed Together is a beautiful children’s book, illustrated by Ishaan Patil, MSc Environmental Anthropology, University of Kent, and Saloni Basrur, MSc Biodiversity, Conservation, and Management, University of Oxford. The book was written by Ishika Ramakrishna, a PhD student at the Centre for Wildlife Studies, India, who is studying human-nonhuman primate interactions. Patil, Basrur and Ramakrishna worked together on this project whilst all working at the Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS) to contribute to the Wild Shaale programme; the programme is an educational one, built to improve the conservation education of children throughout rural India, which is currently rarely taught.
Packed Together was created to meet this need to educate the children from rural areas, and uses a creative element to help engage the children in learning about the local biodiversity. Those living in rural India live next to some stunning and charismatic biodiversity, and yet are rarely taught about it. Often, the interaction they have with these species or what they are taught can be negative; children may hear about wolves and snakes through fables and local myths, and therefore only learn about the potential frightening elements to these species, never being offered to learn about the more fascinating side of wildlife.
“I wanted to work on a creative project while I was at the Centre for Wildlife Studies, India, that would benefit the students who are reached out to via their WildShaale program. Wolves seemed like an obvious choice due to their negative representation in children’s media. We wanted to get students interested in learning about the Indian grey wolf through art and engaging writing. It was a narrow line to walk between not anthropomorphizing our cartoons too much and still keeping them animated and not too realistic.” Ishaan Patil, MSc Environmental Anthropology
Therefore, through the use of fictional stories which are beautifully illustrated, children can start to learn more about the behaviour of local wildlife, in this instance Indian grey wolves. In this publication, the children follow a pack of wolves after they discover that their alpha female is missing, and the book follows their journey to find her, discovering incredible biodiversity along the way. The use of illustration helps to capture the attention of young minds, as it teaches them about habitat and wildlife behaviours.
The Wild Shaale programme is still ongoing, and you can learn more about what they are working towards on their website. If you would like to help towards getting this book to many more students within rural India, Packed Together is still open to receive donations.