Sally Walker is synonymous with zoo and wildlife conservation in South Asia. A citizen of the United States of America, she dedicated two-thirds of her life in India initially in studying Yoga and Sanskrit in the 1970s, and from 1980 in the cause of animal and zoo welfare, and conservation. Hers is a testament to nature’s influence of epiphanic proportions! A visit to the Mysore Zoo and one meeting with new born tiger cubs resulted in 40 years of dedicated service to zoos and conservation in South Asia.
She did the unimaginable in the country. A very outspoken (often hated for it), articulate, and charismatic personality, she made friends and foes with ease. Her no-nonsense attitude cut through a lot of bureaucracy; she was an influencer and pioneer. She set up the Friends of Mysore Zoo, won accolades for it and was asked by the highest authority in India to start a friend of all zoos in the country with a promise of support from the then Department of Environment. She set up the Zoo Outreach Organization (ZOO), an iconic NGO in 1985 and straight away got into the business of influencing the zoos in the country. After doing the research, gathering data and combing the country, she made the first comprehensive list of zoos in India, went straight to the central government with the plight of the animals in those zoos, and initiated the setting up of the Central Zoo Authority.
Sally advocated conservation science at ZOO and partnered with several organizations around the world to promote conservation welfare in zoos. Her enthusiasm and a go-getter attitude to resolving conservation crises impressed Ulie Seal who let Sally start the first regional network of Captive Breeding (now Conservation Planning) Specialist Group of SSC IUCN in 1991 in India.
Sally’s involvement with the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums and her dogged determination initiated the good zoo - bad zoo relationship, focus group and guidelines. She set up a Zoo Authority like organization for all South Asian zoos called SAZARC (South Asian Association of Zoos for Regional Cooperation) and ensured scientific, technical and management training to zoo personnel of the region for 10 years from 2000 to 2010.
Sally won several prestigious awards including The Heini Hediger Award for outstanding and dedicated service to Zoos, The U.S. Seal Award for Innovation and wildlife conservation efforts in South Asia, The Menon Award for Contribution to Welfare of Captive Wild Animals in India, and The Scientific Fellow of the North of England Zoological Society.
Sally Raulston Walker, a conservation hero. She has been a role model and a life changer to hundreds of conservationists, wildlife educators, naturalists, zoo personnel, foresters, and so many others in India, South Asia, and from around the world! Sally’s long-time team at ZOO will continue her legacy.