Whose land is it? Man’s or leopard’s?


TN Khoshoo award recognizes research on how man and beast adapt in human dominated landscapes

Bangalore, 8 August: The TN Khoshoo Memorial Award for Conservation, Environment and Development 2012 has been given to Dr. Vidya Athreya for her research on the dynamics of human-leopard encounters, the ecology and biology of the species, and the political and socio cultural aspects of this encounter. “Wild animals know no borders. In India, they cannot afford to because people and their livestock are everywhere. In this case, this is a secretive animal inhabiting an agrarian landscape,” says the Research Associate with Pune’s Kaati Trust, and Centre for Wildlife Studies & Asian Nature Conservation Foundation, Bangalore.

Backed by research carried out since 2003 in the sugarcane belt of Maharashtra, she is in a position to advise that translocating this big cat as a strategy to mitigate human-leopard conflict will not work, given the territorial instincts and homing behavior of this free-ranging animal. In fact, attacks on humans start near release sites, says Vidya. Communities are very aware of the wild animals and are tolerant to having these animals around. We might be increasing conflict and decreasing tolerance by ecologically inappropriate interventions, she warns.

Earlier, Prof Kamal Bawa, founder president of ATREE spoke of the vision of Dr. TN Khoshoo. “He spoke of sustainability as a moral and ethical responsibility, and he brought Gandhian thought to some of our pressing environmental problems. He was also visionary in that he was already about some of our more pressing issues 25 years ago.”

Dr. Ganesan Balachander, Chair of the Khoshoo Endowment Committee, said: “The award is to recognize and celebrate the achievements of outstanding individuals. These are the unsung heroes who keep things going in the face of many difficulties. Vidya as an individual has done outstanding work, studying the dynamics of human-leopard encounters.”

Biodiversity Asia 2012, the 2nd Asia Region Conference of the Society for Conservation Biology, organized by ATREE, IISc and co-organisers, also hosted the 2012 TN Khoshoo Memorial Award and Lecture this year. The TN Khoshoo Memorial Award and Lecture has been instituted to honour the memory of environmentalist, the late Dr. Triloki Nath Khoshoo, who was the first Secretary of the Department of Environment in 1982, and draughtsman of India’s environmental policy. The TN Khoshoo Memorial Award and Lecture is supported by the Khoshoo family, ATREE, and the Institute of Rural Research and Development (an initiative of the SM Sehgal Foundation).

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More about Vidya Athreya
Vidya Athreya is Research Associate, Kaati Trust, Pune and Centre for Wildlife Studies & Asian Nature Conservation Foundation, Bangalore. Vidya is interested in how wild animals live in human use landscapes and the adaptation by both, people and animals to each other’s presence. Her work focuses on wildlife outside Protected Areas, especially with the conflict-causing species, the leopard. Her research aims at understanding the drivers of conflict as well as the ecology of leopards when they live among humans. She has worked extensively with the Maharashtra Forest Department to decrease conflict by using knowledge-based management interventions, and contributed to the national guidelines on human-leopard conflict published by the MOEF in 2011. Her website, http://www.projectwaghoba.in/ outlines her work on density of leopards, their prey, the losses farmers face due to leopards and their attitudes towards the species.

Vidya did her Masters in Ecology from University of Pondicherry as well as from the University of Iowa. She is a member of the IUCN cat specialist group.

Dr TN Khoshoo, TN Khoshoo Memorial Award and Lecture, past winners on http://atree.org/khoshoo
Dr. Triloki Nath Khoshoo (27 April 1927 – 10 June 2002)

Dr TN Khoshoo was co-founder of the Department of Botany at Punjab University, Lahore, in pre partition India, from where he moved to Khalsa College, Amritsar, in 1947. After serving as Chairman of the Botany Department at Jammu and Kashmir University, he joined the National Botanical Gardens, Lucknow, in 1964. By 1978, this institution had developed to become the National Botanical Research Institute under his leadership.

Dr Khoshoo became the author of India’s draft environmental policy, in his role as Secretary of the newly formed Department of Environment, Government of India, in 1982. Later, he joined the Tata Energy Research Institute as a Distinguished Fellow.

Dr Khoshoo authored more than 250 research papers on plant genetics and evolution, biomass, energy, forestry, conservation, and the utilisation and management of natural resources. He wrote seven books and edited eleven others. His book ‘Mahatma Gandhi: An Apostle of Applied Human Ecology’, published in 1996, was widely applauded for its interpretation of the practical relevance of Gandhian views. In 1992 DrKhoshoo was decorated with one of India's highest civilian awards, the Padma Bhushan. He was awarded the Sasakawa Environmental Prize by the United Nations Environment Programme in 1996.

About ATREE www.atree.org
Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) is a research organisation in the areas of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. It was ranked 19th among the top environmental think tanks in the world, as per the 2011 Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program survey carried out by the University of Pennsylvania, USA.

ATREE was established in 1996 by three academics who felt the need of an institution that used science to address the environmental, social and economic consequences of the decline of India’s natural resources.ATREE’s mission is to promote socially just environmental conservation and sustainable development by generating rigorous interdisciplinary knowledge that engages actively with academia, policy makers, practitioners, activists, students and wider public audiences.

ATREE is recognised as a Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India.