India’s Conservation Challenges

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Wildlife conservation at crossroads

An interview with Dr. K. Ullas Karanth

Dr Ullas Karanth, a Senior Scientist with the international NGO, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), is a world-renowned wildlife biologist.  In a wide-ranging interview with wildlife and conservation filmmaker, Shekar Dattatri, he outlines the basic problems that beset wildlife conservation in India’s human dominated landscape, and shares his views on preserving these last wild places.

(This is an updated version of an interview that was first published under the title Read More

Lights on for Elephants

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Technology offers solutions for Human-Elephant Conflicts.

The dark hulks ambled in a single file across the stark green landscape of thigh-high tea bushes. Without a pause in their stride, the elephants made their way towards a tiny patch of forest. Save for the tree crickets, there were no other sounds. Had it been daytime, the elephants would have been harassed by people behaving like neurotic monkeys. On such occasions, despite their size, the elephants seemed so vulnerable, with nowhere to … Read More

Another Amur Falcon Migratory Season Begins

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The first Amur Falcons have started arriving in the Northeast, and in Nagaland. The local communities in various parts of the state have been eagerly awaiting the birds in the last couple of years — to welcome them as honoured guests, and to provide them with safe passage.

For the last two years, the Amur Falcon conservation efforts in Pangti and Sungro villages in Wokha district of Nagaland have passed off successfully in a remarkable conservation turnaround. In 2013 and … Read More

Mining and its aftermath

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Iron ore was discovered in Kudremukh in 1913, when P. Sampath Iyengar, a geologist from Mysore, set out on a quest for the mineral.  As he rode along the Bhadra River he noticed that fine particles of ore had adhered to his horse’s shoes. Following the trail, he finally reached the Aroli range of hills and discovered Kudremukh’s iron-ore deposits. However, full-scale mining operations only began decades later, when the Iranian government, under Mohammad Reza Pahlavi — the Shah of … Read More

Silent Valley – A People’s Movement That Saved A Forest

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Long before the Internet era, a remarkable people’s movement saved a pristine moist evergreen forest in Kerala’s Palakkad District from being destroyed by a hydroelectric project. The battle for the now famous Silent Valley raged for over ten years and involved thousands of people who did not even live in the vicinity of the area that was to be destroyed. Although the campaign did not have any centralized planning, it was highly effective. The sustained pressure exerted on the government Read More

The Six Percent Solution — a New Recipe for Saving Wild Tigers

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21 leading conservation biologists from across the world have proposed that since it might be far too expensive and far too difficult to save all wild tigers, we should focus a major part of our efforts and expenditure on 42 selected sites that show the greatest promise. Here’s CI’s distilled version of the original paper titled Bringing the tiger back from the brink – The six percent solution.

Current approaches to tiger conservation have not succeeded in slowing the decline … Read More

Urgent! The Compensatory Afforestation (CAF) Bill 2015 Must be Recast — Act Now!

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Urgent! Calling all citizens to endorse this campaign to prevent over ₹ 35,000 Crores being wasted on meaningless tree planting projects. Let’s demand a better Compensatory Afforestation Bill! Act Now by signing this petition!


The Honourable Chairman,
Department Related Standing Committee
Science & Technology, Environment & Forests
Rajya Sabha Secretariat
Room No. 142, First Floor, Parliament House Annexe
New Delhi – 110 001

Sub: The Compensatory Afforestation Bill 2015 must be revised and recast.

Dear Sir,

At the outset, … Read More

Saving the Elusive Pygmy Hog

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Thanks to a content sharing agreement with Livemint, we are able to bring some interesting conservation articles authored by Ananda Banerjee.

Success in conservation is usually measured by the effectiveness of steps to boost the numbers of big, charismatic species. In India, the stars are the Bengal tiger, followed by the Asiatic lion, the leopard, the elephant and the rhinoceros.

Assam, for instance, is celebrating an increase in the population of the endangered, greater one-horned rhinoceros by 250. Earlier this … Read More

The Endangered Fishing Cat, Howrah, West Bengal

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The Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) is listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List, and is a unique example of the great abilities and diversities of the felid family. Recent studies have shown that they are strongly linked to marshlands. Unfortunately, marshlands are considered to be “wastelands” under Indian land-use policies and are thus subjected to degradation and conversion, especially outside protected areas.

In West Bengal alone, where this image was taken, there has been a 44% decline in marshlands … Read More

Dead Indian Vulture at Ramanagara, Karnataka

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Ramnagara (or Ramadevarabetta) Vulture Sanctuary, with an area of 346.14 hectares, was declared as a Vulture Sanctuary on January 31, 2012. It has received attention from Bangalore’s ‘wildlifers’ and consequently, there have been a few interesting articles published about this area in the media. However, the story I am about to relate is not a pretty one and exposes the potential deficiencies in vulture conservation strategy.

While birding at Ramanagara on 14th June 2015, Vishnupriya and I scanned the cliffs … Read More

Protest against Plastics — Act Now!

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Campaign Details — May 2015

Protest against Plastics — Act Now! Deadline for NGT Public Notice May 7th.

The Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued a Public Notice on the matter of use of various types of plastic products, with a view to phasing out many of them. Click here to see the order of the Tribunal.

Since many types of plastics create havoc in the environment, CI is urging readers to send their representations to … Read More

Volunteering Can Help Save Wildlife

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Participation of non-scientists as volunteers in conservation can play a significant role in saving wildlife, finds a new scientific research led by Duke University, USA, in collaboration with Wildlife Conservation Society and Centre for Wildlife Studies, Bengaluru.

The study has shown that citizen science projects greatly contribute to ‘increased environmental awareness among the general public’. It also reported direct impacts on conservation including – shift in formal profession by volunteers to become conservationists, initiation of new conservation organizations or groups, … Read More

Bhadra River Recovering after Stoppage of Mining in Kudremukh

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The picture of the Bhadra River on the left loaded with silt after a heavy rainstorm was taken on 30th September 2002, during an inspection by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) as ordered by the Supreme Court. The photo on the right, showing the clear waters of the Bhadra River was taken on 18th October 2010, again after a heavy rainstorm, from the same location, five years after mining was stopped by the Apex Court based on a petition filed … Read More

Urgent Campaign for a Credible National Board for Wildlife — Act Now!

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Campaign Details — September 2014

Urgent Campaign for a Credible National Board for Wildlife — Act Now!

Most urgent! Write to the Minister of Environment & Forests urging him to constitute a CREDIBLE National Board for Wildlife. The few minutes you spend on this could make a huge difference to India’s precious protected areas. Act now!


All development projects, such as roads, dams, mines, power plants etc. that are proposed in or within 10 kms of a Sanctuary or … Read More

Saving Demoiselle Cranes, Khichan, Rajasthan

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Every year, thousands of Demoiselle Cranes visit Khichan village in the Rajasthan desert during winter. They arrive by October-November and stay on till the end of March. Khichan and the areas around were filled with open high tension wires. Every time these beautiful cranes flew, they would come in contact with these high tension wires and die. The images show such electrocuted cranes.

A Khichan native — Sevaram Malli Parihar — took it upon himself to get these high tension … Read More

Narcondam Campaign Update — Rare Hornbills in danger as Ministry Reopens Radar Project!

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Campaign Update 21st November 2012

Great News! The Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) has rejected the proposal by the Indian Coast Guard to erect a RADAR installation on Narcondam Island in the Andamans.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper Conservation in Bangladesh

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Considering its grim current global status, a group of young ornithologists in Bangladesh took up the challenge to save the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper in 2009, when they began the Bangladesh Spoon-billed Sandpiper Conservation Project (BSCP).

Their surveys confirmed that Bangladesh is an extremely important wintering ground for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, and identified Sonadia Island (near Cox’s Bazar) as the key wintering site and Domar Char as a stopover (passage) site in the country. In Sonadia Island, they found evidence … Read More

Relocate Cheyyur Power Plant; Declare Area as Ecosensitive: Conservation NGO Urges Govt

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The 4000 MW Cheyyur coal power project in Kanchipuram district, Tamil Nadu, has high potential to irreversibly damage the Odiyur Lagoon, destabilise fisheries and increase the vulnerability of the area to flooding events, according to a scientific study titled “Evaluation of the Waterbirds of Odiyur Lagoon – a Wetland near the proposed Cheyyur Power Plant” by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and the Madras Naturalists’ Society (MNS). Releasing the report at a Press Conference today, Dr. Ravi Chellam, Vice … Read More

Saving the Spoon-billed Sandpiper in Bangladesh

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The first specimen of the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus) was collected in mid-19th century from Bangladesh. The country also holds the record for the highest single count of the bird anywhere in the world — 202 birds in 1989 from Moulevir Char (Bakewell & Howes 1989)!

That was history.

The bird has since undergone a drastic decline in its population. According to Birdlife International, this charismatic species is listed as Critically Endangered because of its extremely small population … Read More

New to Conservation? Read This!

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Wildlife filmmaker and conservationist Shekar Dattatri addresses some of the common misconceptions that people have about conservation, and provides pointers on how “ordinary people” can get started in saving wildlife.

At one time or another, most conservationists have had someone come up to them and say, “I’m into conservation too! I have two dogs and a cat, and I volunteer at the Blue Cross on weekends”. Actually, wildlife conservation has nothing to do with keeping pets, being compassionate towards domestic … Read More

Life between Net and Death in Chilika

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I was on a planned trip to Chilika’s Teen Muhana (Three River Mouths) with friends from Odisha, to watch migratory waterfowl of the great wetland. We started early in the morning from Mangalajodi on a hired boat. It was a lovely winter morning and the sun had gently warmed up the lake, where we witnessed large congregations of waterfowl.

Our first stop was at a very small island no.7 for 10 minutes. As we proceeded again towards Teen Muhana, … Read More

Amur Falcon campaign update — Another migration season begins!

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Campaign Update 30th October 2013

Great news! The peak migration of Amur Falcons is on, and there have been absolutely no killings reported so far! This remarkable outcome has been the result of a full year of painstaking effort from the Nagaland government (especially the forest department), NGO groups, and most importantly, the local communities who were determined to end the killings.

National Green Tribunal (NGT) orders status quo in Challakere grasslands — ESG Press Release

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National Green Tribunal order Status Quo on activities of DRDO, BARC, ISRO, IISc, et. al., in Challakere, Chitradurga

In an unprecedented decision, the Hon’ble National Green Tribunal (South Zone), Chennai, ordered today status quo on all project activities proposed in the Amrit Mahal Kaval grassland ecosystems of Challakere Taluk, Chitradurga, Karnataka with immediate effect. The directions were issued on the interim prayers filed in Applications by the undersigned which complained that Defence Research Development Organisation, Indian Institute of Science, Indian … Read More

Kannada Film Industry Continues to Destroy Hesaraghatta Grasslands

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I have been working towards preserving the grasslands in Hesaraghatta near Bangalore with my colleagues at the Arkavathy River Rejuvenation group. The govt. of Karnataka proposed to build a film city here and a public interest litigation (PIL) opposing that has been filed in the High Court of Karnataka. Consequently, the Karnataka High Court ordered all parties to maintain status quo until further notice.

The land is under the supervision of Kanteerava Studios which lets it out for shooting movies. … Read More

Long-billed Vultures Mating, Ramanagaram

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We were lucky to witness the courtship of Long-billed Vultures (Gyps indicus) in Ramanagaram (Ramadevarabetta) in January this year (2013). The process of both courtship and mating went on for a few minutes and they started the entire process again. We left the critically endangered vultures with their privacy and with a silent prayer that their brood grows!

It will be recalled that in response to a hard fought conservation battle, the government of Karnataka notified Ramadevarabetta as … Read More