Kalyar Platt, PhD is Director of the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) Myanmar Program based in Yangon Myanmar.
Did you have a role model that influenced your decision to work in conservation?
The role model that influenced my decision to work in the field of wildlife conservation is the internationally recognised chimpanzee expert Dr. Jane Goodall who advocated for chimpanzee protection for 55+ years. Women conservationists face criticism in Myanmar just like Dr. Goodall faced early in her career as a rare female in a scientific field dominated by men. Regardless of the difficulties I faced (and continue to face) in the conservation field, I am trying to follow in her footsteps in research and conservation work in Myanmar. Rather than primates however, I work on Critically Endangered freshwater turtles and tortoises.
What are your biggest achievements?
I am a graduate of Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok where I conducted my dissertation research on the ecology of Batagurine turtles. I am a native of Myanmar with extensive experience working in turtle conservation throughout my country.
I am part of a fantastic team and our efforts have been instrumental in arresting the decline of the endemic Burmese Roofed Turtle and restoring populations of the Burmese Star Tortoise. In 2015, I received Behler Turtle Conservation Award, Honoring Excellence, Outstanding Contributions, and Leadership in the International Chelonian Conservation and Biology Communities, the “Nobel Prize” of Turtle Conservation.
Have you had to overcome prejudices as a woman working in conservation?
Myanmar is very similar to India and China, where women face deeply ingrained cultural discrimination. Personal biases against gender, age and ethnicity can damage workplace relationships, because people believe that men can make decisions and work more productively. I had to deal with prejudice and negative attitudes from the older men at the beginning of my career, often because men had a difficulty following a woman’s leadership. However, I overcame prejudices by working with team spirit. Like our great leader Aung San Suu Kyi practices, lead the way, show the way and go the way. After working together, I gained more support and fair and equal treatment for all groups of people regardless of age, gender and beliefs.
Do you feel that there is a support network for women working in conservation, either locally, nationally, or internationally?
I am now seeing that there is more of a support network for women working in conservation locally, nationally and internationally than at the time I first began working in this field. In the past, Myanmar women were mostly expected to be a housewife and take care of the family. However, modern Myanmar women are becoming more educated and acquiring professional jobs. There are more international organisations encouraging the creation of networks to empower women, who combine their unique knowledge, skills and talents to manage and conserve natural resources, and promoting women-led conservation projects in Myanmar.
Image of Kalyar ©Steven Platt/WCS
Featured image by David Mark from Pixabay