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When nature called, I answered

I have been asked so many times what drove me to choose a career for the environment. The answer is simple. It was not a choice, but rather a calling.

© Dr Gita Suraj-Narayan
WWF intern Sheroma Surajnarayan uses her skills as a Marine Biologist to monitor and research our feathery friends of the coast.

Growing up, my fondest memories were climbing tall trees looking for weird and wonderful creatures, and running barefoot outside. While most girls my age were playing dress-up, with their pretty costumes and Barbie dolls, I was pretending to be an explorer. You can imagine my mother’s horror, when I would come home covered in mud from digging up earthworms. While other kids and adults were afraid of snakes and sharks, I wanted to learn more about them.

Choosing to conserve and protect

It was only when I studied towards an undergraduate degree in biological sciences and later, an Honours degree in Environmental Monitoring that I was exposed to the devastating environmental challenges we face.

I knew it would be my life’s mission to conserve and protect the natural world.

This led me to work with various animals from fish, snakes and scorpions to seals and penguins in zoos and aquaria. But, I wasn’t satisfied. My dream was to work with wild animals in their natural environment and really help to have an impact on their conservation.

Living the dream

My dream became a reality when I was offered an internship through the WWF South Africa Graduate Internship Programme, placed with SANCCOB and the City of Cape Town to work with the African penguin monitoring team in Simon’s Town. For as long as I can remember, the WWF panda has been a symbol of hope for the environmental protection. And now I was getting to work, hands-on, in the field with wild penguins knowing that I have the support of the iconic panda behind me.

In a world of over-harvesting and depletion of natural resources at alarming rates, it is easy to lose hope and become complacent. The facts and figures can paint a gloomy picture of a world on the brink of destruction. But being part of a team with the quiet heroes who work tirelessly every day to save the lives of seabirds, I can tell you - there is hope.

Reaping the rewards

This internship has been incredibly challenging at times. Penguins may only be knee high but they are not the easiest bosses.

But this experience has been immensely rewarding. When I hold a delicate little penguin chick in my hands or rescue a helpless adult bird fighting for its life, I know that my small contribution to the conservation of the African penguin does matter.

Working in the field has taught me to look beyond the statistics and channel my humanity into saving these endangered birds. Because every life is important.

As the custodians of this precious Earth, we are all responsible for its care and sustainability.

It is our compassion and commitment to protecting the environment that is leading to a shift in the consciousness of the planet. We can make an impact.

Seeking the greatness within

We all have the potential for greatness within us. The WWF Graduate Internship Programme has supported others like me to harness our potential to become capable, skilled and competent individuals who will go on to become experts in our field. It has bridged the gap between academia and practical application of skills in the real world.

I want to say a heartfelt thank you to the programme leaders as their unwavering support and commitment to the internship programme has culminated in its huge success.

This programme instilled in us the confidence to hold our own among powerful leaders, knowing that we can and are making a difference through our contributions.

We are the future Environmental Leaders and it is our voices that will effect positive change in the hearts and minds of people. Because conserving our precious planet is our calling.

© Dee Masuku
WWF-SA's graduate interns 2017. The interns come from various disciplines and fields, and have gained experience in different occupations.
Sheroma Surajnarayan Photo
Sheroma Surajnarayan, 2017 Intern

Sheroma Surajnarayan is a WWF South Africa 2017 graduate intern placed with SANCCOB and the City of Cape Town to work with the African penguin monitoring team in Simon’s Town. She is one of 50 graduates who participated in the WWF Graduate Internship Programme in 2017.