Dedicating my life to being a conservationist

Image of Jonny

My name is Jonathan Gnanapragasam, known by all as Jonny. I am an international student from Sri Lanka, currently in my second year reading for my Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science (Wildlife and Conservation Biology).

My ambition in life is to be a wildlife conservationist. I am willing to dedicate my life to the conservation of endangered species. My motivation and love of zoology comes from my family. My earliest childhood memories revolve around the dogs and cats who were precious family members, not mere pets. My family are committed to conserving and protecting animals in some small way, even though none of us is a qualified conservationist. Both our dogs are rescued from the streets. We also count three cats, eight tortoises, seven guinea pigs, two rabbits and a hamster in our coterie of pets, along with several species of fish that live in our pond.

When word spread about my family’s willingness to provide a sanctuary for animals, strangers began bringing animals they had rescued but could not take care of. Our tortoises came to us this way. We have rescued, nurtured and released injured birds and a baby fruit bat, which still comes back to our garden. With the personal experience I gained in taking care of these animal friends my determination to protect and conserve fauna is a key motivating force in my life.

Making new friends with a wallaby

Making new friends with a wallaby

I completed the first year of my Bachelor of Science at the Royal Institute of Colombo in Sri Lanka, which has a partnership with Deakin University. Since 2013, science students are allowed to complete the first year of their science degree in Sri Lanka and thereafter move to Deakin to complete the last two years, which is how I come to be here in Australia.

I am an ardent animal lover and have always been passionate about wildlife and conserving wildlife for future generations, which is why I chose to undertake my bachelor’s degree at Deakin as it is the only university in Australia to offer a specialised degree at the bachelor’s level. The curriculum consists of both theory and practical work, including camps with a big emphasis on fieldwork. We get to learn firsthand how to apply our knowledge in the field and learn many of the techniques used by ecologists when it comes to conserving wildlife.

I recently was in Cape Conran in East Gippsland as part of my degree, where I was involved in learning many of field techniques such as animal trapping, micro-chipping animals, spotlighting, radio tracking, bird watching and camera trapping, and I was successful in trapping and handling animals such as Dusky Antechinus, Agile Antechinus, Bush Rats and Common Brushtail Possums, to name a few.

Learning field techniques

Learning field techniques

I have two internships lined up at the end of the year as part of my degree. The first involves working with Sri Lankan elephants and focuses mainly on human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka. The second involves working with Sri Lankan leopards and focuses mainly on population census using scat analysis to identify how many individual leopards are found in Sri Lanka as well as studying habitat preferences and home ranges of leopards and the impact of habitat loss on leopards.

After completing my bachelor’s degree I plan to start my master’s degree and thereafter to complete my PhD before I turn 30. My passion is to work with mammals, especially in conservation efforts focused on big cats such as tigers, leopards, lions, jaguars and cheetahs. My dream is to work in both Africa and the Amazon River area some time during my life, conserving wildlife and ecosystems.

For further information about studying at Deakin and to view the many degrees on offer, visit our international student page.

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