14 May : A noted Indian wildlife biologist has won the Whitley Award, considered the ‘Green Oscar’, in recognition of his work to reduce human-wildlife conflict in the Western Ghats in Karnataka.Dr MD Madhusudan, Director of Nature Conservation Foundation — a young NGO that has grown quickly to become one of the most respected in India — received a trophy and a cash prize of 30,000 pounds from Princess Anne at a glittering ceremony held at the Royal Geographical Society in Karnataka wednesday night.
Two other Indian conservationists received Associate Awards.
Sudipto Chatterjee received 10,000 pounds to develop an action plan to conserve wild rhododendrons in the Eastern Himalayas while Supraja Dharini received an equal amount for a community based initiative to protect sea turtles and dolphins in Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu.
Madhusudhan is a science graduate from the Yuvaraja College, Mysore and obtained a Master’s from the Wildlife Institute of India at Dehra Dun.
Madhusudhan and his team tries to combine science with practical conservation action to resolve conflict between the wild animals and the local communities.
His team has also developed solar-powered electric fences to protect crops.
Before the fence went up a year ago, families were losing about a quarter of their crops to elephants and this year, they have lost none.
He told the gathering that his community work was partly inspired by an elderly couple, whose crop was destroyed by marauding elements even after keeping a strict vigil.
"One morning, I found the couple disconsolate. The night before, the exhausted man had nodded off briefly yet in those few moments, their entire crop had been destroyed, leaving them with nothing," Madhusudhan said.
"…For someone raised in the city, like me, it showed the true harshness of marginal life and the high cost our very poorest people pay for wildlife conservation," he added.
His work now focuses on the Western Ghats — the world’s most densely populated biodiversity hotspot — supporting 350 people per square kilometre.
It is also home to an estimated 350 to 500 tigers alongside 15,000 elephants and a host of other endangered wildlife.
Edward Whitley, Founder of Whitley Fund for Nature and judging panel chairman, praised the award winners, saying "The aim of the Whitley Awards is to find and support conservation scientists whose vision, passion, determination and qualities of leadership mean they are able to inspire local communities to take positive conservation action of benefit both to wildlife and people’s lives."