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A Summer with Elephants

Kate Welch, a second-year law student: “I knew it would be a unique experience in the field of international conservation law that I could not get working at a law firm in Florida.”

“Never once did I think coming to Stetson Law would allow me to bottle-feed rhino calves in a remote jungle in India,” said second-year law student Kate Welch, who spent her summer working with the Wildlife Trust of India in Delhi, India.

Welch met Vivek Menon, executive director and CEO of the Wildlife Trust of India, when he was on the Stetson University College of Law’s Gulfport campus, giving a Foreman Biodiversity Lecture. The meeting opened the door to a summer job for Welch in India.

“When Mr. Menon invited me to apply for a job there this summer, I knew it would be a unique experience in the field of international conservation law that I could not get working at a law firm in Florida,” said Welch.

Stetson’s new Dick and Joan Jacobs’ Environmental Externship Fund helped to fund the trip.

“Without the support of Stetson staff, faculty, alumni and the Dick and Joan Jacobs’ Environmental Externship Fund, I would never have been able to experience the wonders of India and gain the insight I have into international environmental law and conservation policy that I hope to use in my career in a similar field,” Welch commented.

Welch’s impressions of life in India: While it’s a “tough place for the 1.32 billion Indian people to make a living, let alone the precious wildlife,” the people are resilient.

“I have heard many stories of starving wild elephants ransacking forest villages and killing people, only for their family members to quickly forgive the beasts and better educate themselves on how to build their community in a way to better avoid future human-elephant conflict,” said Welch.

For a week in July, Welch visited the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation in the northeast Indian state of Assam. The ultimate goal of the center is to rehabilitate animals that have been orphaned or injured in Assam and return them to the wild.

Also during the summer, Welch completed legal research pertaining to various issues park rangers are having in parks across India and the implications that federal laws have on them. She also manned the Wildlife Trust of India’s booth at the United Nation’s World Environment Day and spent significant time helping to organize an event called Gaj Majotsav.

Further, Welch had the opportunity to travel into Kaziranga National Park to help treat a badly injured elephant that was attacked by a wild bull elephant. She dressed the wounds on the injured elephant’s tail.

The job, Welch concluded, invigorated her to return to Stetson and throw herself wholeheartedly into supporting the causes she deems critically important.

Welch’s words: “This means not just working hard in the classroom but volunteering my time and energy to make a difference off campus, as well. The experience has taught me that no matter how hard things get or how dim the future looks for environmental activism in the United States, the work we do as lawyers matters, and it is important to keep on fighting the good fight, because every little bit matters.”

– Julie McHaffie