The student who swapped social psychology for conservation to protect Sumatran wildlife

Mira Margaretha

“I was actually trained in social psychology,” says Mira Margaretha, “but I felt that I needed to contribute to conserve Indonesian wildlife: which led to my current life trajectory”.

Mira Margaretha

Tomorrow (Fri 3 March), Mira, MPhil student in Conservation Leadership, is on a panel to discuss the future of wildlife as part of an event to mark World Wildlife Day: ‘Celebrating Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation’.

Mira is certainly well-placed to discuss the issues and offer a unique perspective on the possible solutions following her work with wildlife in Southern Sumatra.

“My work revolves around working with local communities and government to conserve Sumatran elephants, tigers, and rhinos,” she says. “Some of the aspects include managing conflicts between humans and wildlife, sustainable livelihood, environmental education, and community engagement.”

Her journey to her current conservation role wasn’t straightforward, however, and only started after she had already graduated with her degree in social psychology. It was a complete change of direction, but one she says she couldn’t resist. Aware of the great wildlife challenges in Southern Sumatra, she sought out a role where she could make a difference in a new field.   

“After my degree, I landed my first role at the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) Indonesia,” she says. “Here, I cooperated with poor rural communities in central Sumatra that were affected by conflict with elephants to help them shift to safe conflict mitigation methods.”

In order to support the long-term change necessary to protect wildlife in the area, she had to balance numerous stakeholders and objectives: “It meant dialoguing with the communities, governmental agencies, and the private sector while keeping critical goals such as loss reduction and human safety in mind.”

Her work later focused on leading communication and environmental education programs at FZS and then later at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia in Southern Sumatra. In her latest role at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), she manages a large conservation project in the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Sumatra.

“It’s a challenging role,” she says. “I lead the collaboration between three NGOs to implement different aspects of the project including patrol and protection, biodiversity research, sustainable livelihoods, environmental and social safeguards, and community microfinance.”

The MPhil course in Conservation Leadership is certainly supporting her professional work and developing her skills. 

“I really enjoy the learning experience I get from the course so far,” she says. “One of the course focuses is also on the peer learning aspect, from which I am learning so much from my 23 classmates who are conservation practitioners from 18 different countries.”

At the Celebrating Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation event, she will join fellow MPhil in Conservation Leadership student, Bupe Banda, and Co-Founder of Earthcare Inc, Nkamunu Patita, in a conversation moderated by Wolfson College Student Association (WCSA) Green Officer, Sheila Ojwang.

“I am looking forward to an exciting conversation with the panellists and the participants on things that I care most about,” she says, “and to be hopeful for the future of our wildlife.”

How to attend the event

Celebrating Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation takes place on Friday 3 March, 17:00 – 19:00, Gatsby Room (Chancellor’s Centre), Wolfson College.

You can find out more about the event and how to book on the event page.