The road to redemption

In the field of wildlife conservation working closely with the government and providing suitable policy inputs can result in important on-ground changes. Several of our projects are wonderful examples of  successful partnerships between governmental and non-governmental agencies.

  • Protected areas are cornerstones of certain wildlife species conservation

  • Land use around protected areas need to be wildlife compatible

  • Siting of infrastructure projects needs to be in tune with wildlife preservation

  • Linear intrusions such as roads are to be made compatible with wildlife conservation when they pass through ecologically important areas

  • A tiger rests on a stretch of a highway in Nagarahole Tiger Reserve that's currently realigned outside the tiger reserve

Connecting the sources

In a densely populated country such as India, the 5% of land set aside as areas protected for wildlife, is often the last refuge for some wildlife species such as the tiger one-horned rhinoceros and others. Conservation efforts need to be supplemented with the availability of larger tracts of forests to support ecologically viable wildlife populations and also to ensure that the protected areas are connected.  By working closely with the government, we have been able to secure the addition of ~2,700 km2 of biodiversity rich forests into the protected area network in Karnataka as well as mitigate some of the threats to these islands of biodiversity. 

Our team worked closely with the government to augment the protected area network in the state. Through GIS tools, field understanding of ecologically important sites we identified parcels of forested land that would provide a contiguous protected area network for wildlife. In addition, we attempted to address this using a conservation planning technique that considers ecological, social and political factors. Our efforts also bore fruit with the declaration of a new protected area, Sri Malai Mahadeshwara (MM Hills) Wildlife Sanctuary (906 km2). We continue to provide scientific inputs on this aspect to ensure that network is further enhanced to ensure that wide-ranging species have a secured land-tenure. 

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Ensuring wildlife compatible land uses

Implementing wildlife compatible projects in the immediate vicinity of protected areas is a much-needed necessity to ensure that land-use in these areas are in tune with wildlife conservation. Eco-sensitive zones could minimize the detrimental impacts of certain activities on these ecologically fragile areas while incentivizing local people living there. We have provided critical scientific and GIS inputs to the government to identify and delineate eco-sensitive zones, under the existing Environment Protection Act 1986, around 14 protected areas in the Western Ghats of Karnataka. We also work with local leaders to ensure that these inputs had support from democratically elected people’s representatives. Bandipur Tiger Reserve was the first tiger reserve in the country to notify the eco-sensitive zone where we played a critical role. 

We further suggested and convinced the government to provide additional benefits for communities living within the eco-sensitive zones. Based on these suggestions Karnataka government has now approved to provide additional funding for water conservation activities to communities living within the eco-sensitive zones. 

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Eco-sensitive zones are the transition zones acting as 'shock absorbers' for protected areas

Frontline warriors

Most frontline staff of forest department  are local people with a keen understanding of the wildlife in the area, looking to make a livelihood out of protecting their forests. These foot soldiers work in harsh and remote conditions, often far from human habitations or medical help. They are also inadequately equipped to deal with emergency situations. 

Through our efforts, a government sponsored personal accident insurance scheme for the frontline staff of all protected areas in Karnataka was initiated in 2013. This scheme is expected to cover the staff against injury or death on duty and has already been implemented in many protected areas in Karnataka. Funds for this insurance scheme is sourced through the revenue generated by tourism in protected areas. 

Similarly, we are working on other welfare initiatives that could help the frontline staff.  We believe that government sponsored programs are more sustainable in the longer-term on staff welfare aspects, and civil societies can act as pivotal agencies to initiate and facilitate the welfare programs.  

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Frontline staff of the forest department are key in protected area management

Defragmenting wildlife habitats

Mushrooming of certain developmental activities causes untold damage to wildlife habitats in terms of loss and fragmentation leading to several direct and indirect impacts to wildlife. We have supported and worked with the government and other civil societies to reduce impacts of fragmentation in some of the protected areas and ecologically rich multiple use forests. However we have also ensured that alternative suggestions are provided and implemented so that the solutions are pragmatic and scalable. Closure of highways to vehicular traffic at night within Bandipur and Nagarahole Tiger Reserves and development of alternative roads outside these reserves are some of the examples of such initiatives. Through such efforts, we have been successful in combining biology with action to result in tangible gains for wildlife. These initiatives have now been replicated by other state governments. 

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People

Partners

Funding

  • George Walmsley
  • NuWare Systems LLP
  • Panthera
  • Venkatram Krishnan

Publications

  • Journal Article
    2017
    Evaluating a survey landscape for tiger abundance in the confluence of the Western and Eastern Ghats
    Lingaraja S. S., Swayam Chowdhary, Rashmi Bhat, Sanjay Gubbi
    Current Science, Vol 113, No. 9, 1759-1763.
    Download

    PDF, 1.54 MB

    Due to the current depleting trends in tiger populations, range countries have committed to double tiger numbers by the year 2022. However, some of the areas, including source sites, across the range countries lack scientifically estimated tiger numbers both at the larger landscape and at the protected area level. Here we report a population of tigers, from Biligirirangaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve, using camera trap based capture-mark recapture in a spatially explicit Likelihood and Bayesian analyses that yielded an estimate of ~55 tigers with a density of about 6.8 tigers/100 km2. Biligirirangaswamy Tiger Reserve nestled in a larger tiger landscape perhaps contributes dispersing individuals to the adjoining forests calling for integrated monitoring and management efforts for the entire landscape. This data set could help in designing long-term, landscape level plans, and outcomes.

  • Journal Article
    2016
    Providing more protected space for tigers Panthera tigris: a landscape conservation approach in the Western Ghats, southern India
    Sanjay Gubbi, Kaushik Mukherjee, M. H. Swaminath, H C Poornesha
    Oryx 50(2): 336–343
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    PDF, 284 KB

    Conservation of large carnivores is challenging as they face various threats, including habitat loss and fragmentation. One of the current challenges to tiger Panthera tigris conservation in India is the conversion of habitat to uses that are incompatible with conservation of the species. Bringing more tiger habitat within a protected area system and in the process creating a network of connected protected areas will deliver dual benefits of wildlife conservation and protection of watersheds. Focusing on the southern Indian state of Karnataka, which holds one of the largest contiguous tiger populations, we attempted to address this challenge using a conservation planning technique that considers ecological, social and political factors. This approach yielded several conservation successes, including an expansion of the protected area network by 2,385 sq km, connection of 23 protected areas, and the creation of three complexes of protected areas, increasing the protected area network in Karnataka from 3.8 to 5.2% of the state’s land area. This represents the largest expansion of protected areas in India since the1970s. Such productive partnerships between government officials and conservationists highlight the importance of complementary roles in conservation planning and implementation.

  • Book
    2016
    ಕರ್ನಾಟಕ ವನ್ಯಜೀವಿ ಜಾಲದ ಗಣಿ ಚಾಮರಾಜನಗರ ಜಿಲ್ಲೆ (A handbook on wildlife of Chamarajanagar district  specifically on MM Hills and Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuaries - in Kannada)
    Sanjay Gubbi, Girish Babu
    September 2016
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    PDF, 19.7 MB

    ಈ ಕಿರುಹೊತ್ತಿಗೆಯಲ್ಲಿ, ಕೈ ಬರಹದ ಚಿತ್ರಗಳೊಂದಿಗೆ, ಚಾಮರಾಜನಗರ ಜಿಲ್ಲೆಯ ವನ್ಯಜೀವಿಗಳ ಕಿರುನೋಟವನ್ನು ನೀಡಲಾಗಿದೆ ಹಾಗೂ ಈ ಜಿಲ್ಲೆಯ ಕಾಡಿನಲ್ಲಿರುವ ಕೆಲವು ಅಪೂರ್ವ ವನ್ಯಜೀವಿಗಳ ವಿವರಗಳನ್ನು ಸಹ ನೀಡಲಾಗಿದೆ. ಚಾಮರಾಜನಗರ ಜಿಲ್ಲೆಯಲ್ಲಿರುವ ಕಾವೇರಿ ಮತ್ತು ಮಲೈ ಮಹದೇಶ್ವರ ವನ್ಯಜೀವಿಧಾಮಗಳ ಪ್ರಾಮುಖ್ಯತೆಯನ್ನು ತಿಳಿಸಿ ಈ ಪ್ರದೇಶಗಳು ಹುಲಿಯಂತಹ ಪ್ರಮುಖ ವನ್ಯಜೀವಿಯ ಜೊತೆಗೆ ಇನ್ನೂ ಅನೇಕ ವನ್ಯಜೀವಿಗಳ ಸಂಖ್ಯೆ ಅಭಿವೃದ್ದಿ ಹೊಂದುವ ಸಾಧ್ಯತೆಯನ್ನು ವಿವರಿಸಲಾಗಿದೆ. ಒಂದು ಕಾಡಿನಿಂದ ಇನ್ನೊಂದು ಕಾಡಿಗೆ ಸಂಪರ್ಕ ಕಲ್ಪಿಸುವ ವನ್ಯಜೀವಿ ಪಥಗಳ ಅವಶ್ಯಕತೆ ಮತ್ತು ಅವುಗಳನ್ನು ಸಂರಕ್ಷಿಸುವ ಅಗತ್ಯತೆಗಳ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ನಿದರ್ಶನಗಳ ಮೂಲಕ ತಿಳಿಸಲಾಗಿದೆ. ಈ ಜಿಲ್ಲೆಯ ಕಾಡುಗಳು ಅನೇಕ ಜನ ಸಮುದಾಯಗಳ ವಾಸಸ್ಥಾನಗಳಾಗಿದ್ದು, ಈ ಸಮುದಾಯಗಳ ಕಾಡಿನ ಮೇಲಿನ ಅವಲಂಬನೆಯ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಕೂಡ ಈ ಕಿರುಹೊತ್ತಿಗೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ವಿವರಿಸಲಾಗಿದೆ. ಈ ಕಾಡುಗಳು ಅನೇಕ ಪ್ರದೇಶಗಳಿಗೆ ನೀರಿನ ಮೂಲವಾಗಿದ್ದು, ಇದು ಈ ಕಾಡುಗಳ ಮೌಲ್ಯವನ್ನು ತಿಳಿಸುತ್ತದೆ. ಕೊನೆಗೆ ಈ ಕಾಡುಗಳಿಗೆ ಮತ್ತು ವನ್ಯಜೀವಿಗಳಿಗಿರುವ ಮುಖ್ಯ ಕುತ್ತುಗಳನ್ನು ಈ ಕಿರುಹೊತ್ತಿಗೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ವಿವರಿಸಲಾಗಿದೆ.

  • Report
    2015
    Tigers of Malai Mahadeshwara and Cauvery Landscape
    November 2015
    Download

    PDF, 5.13 MB

    Report on tiger numbers in the dry forests in the confluence of Western and Eastern Ghats in southern India

  • Book Chapter
    2015
    Finding the middle road: Grounded approaches to mitigate highway impacts in tiger reserves
    Handbook of Road Ecology, Editors : Rodney van der Ree, Daniel J. Smith and Clara Grilo. Publishers : John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
    Download

    PDF, 266 KB

  • Journal Article
    2013
    Joint Indian initiative creates tiger corridor
    Nature, 500, 29
    Download

    PDF, 56.2 KB

    Short excerpt on the creation of  6,500 sq km of contiguous network of protected areas — the largest in the country.

  • Journal Article
    2012
    Impact of vehicular traffic on large mammal use of highway-edges in southern India
    Current Science 102(7): 1047-1051
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    PDF, 166 KB

    India’s phenomenal economic growth over the last decade has been accompanied by a much-needed expansion and improvement in transport and other infrastructure networks. While there are legally mandated assessments of the potential ecological impacts of such infrastructure projects prior to implementation, rarely are there post-implementation assessments of their real ecological impacts. In this communication, we present results of a preliminary study examining the impact of vehicular traffic on the usage of road edges by large mammals along a highway passing through Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, southern India. We estimated large mammal encounter rates at remotely triggered camera traps on two consecutive sections of the same highway – one closed to vehicular traffic and the other open to vehicles only during daytime. We observed lower encounter rates of chital, gaur and elephants at camera traps in the highway segment with higher vehicular traffic density, suggesting that these species avoided busy highways. Based on our findings, we emphasize the importance of continued ecological impact assessments of development projects to identify and mitigate unforeseen impacts. Further, an approach to development planning that integrates conservation concerns, especially where development projects coincide with ecologically critical areas, is urgently needed in India.

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