On March 19, the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), an international non-profit organization dedicated to preserving wild tortoises and freshwater turtles, released a statement addressing allegations of sexual harassment against Dr. Shailendra Singh, the former Director of TSA India. This marks a significant moment as the #MeToo movement has made its way into the wildlife conservation sector in India, which already suffers from gender imbalances.
The issue was brought to light when several women who work in the sector shared their experiences at TSA India on an Instagram post published by a community page dedicated to women in the science and nature industry.
In response to the post calling for a review of TSA India’s work ethics, an anonymous survivor and others commented, sharing experiences of harassment allegedly committed by Dr. Singh and TSA India. One survivor shared that while working at another organization affiliated with TSA, she was harassed and told that nothing would happen if she reported it.
A senior environment journalist shared the story on her Twitter account, prompting the survivors to come forward and share more details about their experiences with TSA India.
One woman mentioned the lack of a toilet in the Chambal facility of TSA and how she had to fight for it repeatedly while suffering from urinary tract infections. She also claimed to have been accused of theft by Dr. Singh and verbally abused by him.
Who is Dr. Shailendra Singh
Shailendra Singh, originally from a small village near the Indo-Nepal border, developed a deep connection with turtles as a child.
He pursued this passion and earned a Masters in Environmental Science and a Ph.D. on the nesting ecology of Batagur turtles. Despite opposition from his parents, he pursued a career in wildlife conservation and worked with the Centre For Herpetology/Madras Crocodile Bank Trust.
There, he established the Chambal turtle conservation program, targeting the Critically Endangered Red-crowned Roof Turtle, B. kachuga. His fieldwork was under the supervision of Brian Horne, then at San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research.
TSA issued statement
TSA’s statement, as published on their official website:
“We have been following the recent social media posts and have received direct contact from one individual alleging inappropriate behaviour by Dr Singh, We take this very seriously. We understand that there is a current investigation in India, compliant with Indian laws, and we await the results and will be prepared to take appropriate action.
Turtle Survival Alliance believes that everyone deserves to work in a safe environment where they are not subjected to unwanted sexual contact or predatory behaviour. As we learn more about this situation, we want to communicate our deepest sympathies for those who have bravely shared their stories.
Although the Turtle Survival Alliance does not operate in India, we have been very proud to support the important turtle conservation work in the country. We recognise that the tremendous impact of Turtle Survival Alliance can only be achieved when we entrust funding to organisations that are held to a high standard of transparency and accountability. As we continue to grow, we will strive to strengthen our relationships and increase transparency and equitable treatment of employees by our worldwide partners. We recognise women as powerful change leaders for the conservation of wildlife and habitat – in their families, in their communities, in their countries, and worldwide. Our mission will only succeed if we promote people of all ages and all backgrounds working together for the conservation of freshwater turtles and tortoises.”
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