The Bold & the Boulder: In Conversation with Athlete and Wildlife Rescuer Tuhin Satarkar
India’s top rock climber and bouldering athlete, Tuhin Satarkar has made waves in the athletic community for his unbelievable feats of human endurance. Making headlines for successfully scaling three routes in the treacherous Sahayadri mountain range over a span of four days, Tuhin earned the title of the first Indian to have ever achieved the feat and has been redefining the nation’s perception of the sport ever since. While known for his professional career as an athlete, Tuhin has devoted a majority of his time to the RESQ Charitable Trust, in the pursuit of his passion for animal rescue and conservation.
Hailing from Pune, Tuhin’s deep connection with climbing began when he was only a toddler. With two parents who were also climbers, Tuhin took to the vertical challenge of the sport when he was only eight and has been pushing the envelope of his physical endurance ever since.
When I was a child, my parents would take me outdoors to climb every weekend. These are my earliest memories of bouldering outdoors, and also my fondest ones.” Tuhin reveals, “My parents don’t climb so much anymore, so now I’m accompanied by my friends.”
Practising on a small climbing wall in the comfort of his own home, Tuhin explains that when he has a specific project in mind, he trains by mimicking the moves on the boulder that he finds most challenging. With a heavy focus on strength and endurance training, Tuhin’s rigorous regimen has seen him reach new heights, both figuratively and literally.
“In 2014, I climbed Ganesha, a sports route in Badami.” Tuhin explains, “It was graded at 8b+, which made it the hardest route in India. It was a challenging process that really tested my physical and mental capabilities, but I consider it somewhat of a beginning for the rest of my climbing career.”
When asked why he personally fell in love with the sport of bouldering, Tuhin reveals that the minimalist version of sport climbing has always been an appealing prospect to him. “I can take a couple of crash pads, climbing shoes, and a friend to spot me, and head out.” He says, “It’s a high-intensity sport, in that the moves are generally short and powerful. But a bouldering session can spread out over a few hours in a relaxed environment, as the number of attempts you can give is high before you completely run out of steam.”
“I started off by handling the emergency helpline, and eventually started conducting and managing rescues as we grew larger.” Tuhin explains, “Since then, it has grown and transitioned into a career for me, one which motivates me to get out of bed every single day. “
The Pune-based Charitable Trust was established in the year 2007 and has been working towards reducing human-animal conflict through their rescue, rehabilitation, education and awareness activities for domestic animals and wildlife, ever since. With a noble aim to reduce animal suffering of all kinds, RESQ has helped and rehabilitated over 70,000 animals since its inception. From the rescue and rehoming of domestic animals such as dogs and cats in difficult situations to providing aid and sanctuary for large animals like horses, cows, donkeys, goats and pigs, RESQ does not discriminate based on size, or species.
“We get all kinds of birds, snakes, turtles, deer, monkeys, wild cats, and have even cared for 10 elephants over the years!”
Run by a passionate team of people who have dedicated their lives to the cause of animal rescue, RESQ receives no form of government funding for their work and relies entirely on the support and generosity of donors.
For Tuhin, his professional career as an athlete collided with his passion for animal rescue and welfare in an unexpected fashion. A video posted to the organisation’s YouTube channel captures a daring rescue in Pune, in which the young bouldering sensation can be seen scaling the side of a building in order to rescue a stranded kitten.
“This is a fairly common occurrence for me and the team, as we receive a large number of calls about animals or birds stuck at heights,” Tuhin explains. Because each rescue comes with its own unique set of challenges, Tuhin explains that it is not uncommon for the RESQ team to have to think on their feet and improvise in terms of equipment and technique used. “My climbing background has been of great help in rescues of this nature since it gave me the technical skills to carry them out with attention to safety and minimum risk.”
°The Bold and the Boulder
Such daring animal rescues are now a common feature of Tuhin’s everyday life, the young sport climber explains as we talk.
“I have lost track of the number of rescues I have been involved in since I joined this organization.” Tuhin admits, “Recently, we rescued a leopard who had fallen into a well. This was tricky since we usually deal with dogs fallen into wells, and the challenges that come with a wild animal are completely different.”
As we talk, Tuhin recalls another rescue, where two dogs were saved after being abandoned by their owner in an empty apartment for over three weeks. “These dogs were filthy and starving, while the third one had passed away from neglect.” Tuhin explains, “This was especially hard-hitting as it reminded me how terribly some humans can treat their pets.”
When asked what he believes is the biggest threat facing our planet’s wildlife, as well as our own domesticated animals, Tuhin explains that human-animal conflict is just as much a major issue for humans as it is for these unfortunate animals. “It isn’t possible to remove animals from the spaces we are in, so it is important that we learn to share”
RESQ is involved in many efforts to ease and reduce this conflict, by way of anti-rabies vaccination drives and a multitude of awareness programs that address the many different forms of conflict born from this uneasy state of parallel existence.
As our conversation nears its end, Tuhin emphasises the importance of more people joining arms in the fight for animal welfare and conservation. “Each animal plays its own role in our ecosystem.” Tuhin says, “It’s totally understandable to dislike or be neutral towards animals, but that is not an excuse to be cruel to them. Whatever your views are about the animals we share our spaces and lives with, we must enable them to survive and learn to peacefully co-exist with each other.”
We at TheVibe applaud the efforts of both Tuhin and the RESQCT for their contributions to our nation’s wildlife conservation efforts, and for the patience and kindness that they have instilled within both the athletic, as well as the broader community. We look forward to a day when these conflicts between man and animal are eradicated and wish both the young athlete, as well as the organisation, all the very best for their future endeavours.