Changing Planet

50 Years of Conservation in India

By K. Ullas Karanth

The modern resurgent India, now the 10th largest economy in the world, is justly proud of its ancient culture and art. Yet we must not forget that India possesses an even more ancient treasure – its wild lands and wildlife. It is one of the most biodiversity-rich nations on earth.

This diversity is threatened now by pressures from all sides. India has 1.2 billion people, packed into an area a third the size of the United States. Two thirds of these people are poor and depend on the land for their livelihoods, food, and energy – putting immense pressure on nature and wild lands. The last 25 years have also seen rapid economic growth and urbanization, generating new impacts and pressures.

This picture blog very briefly covers my personal journey of the past 50 years from being schoolboy in the spectacular Malenad landscape of Karnataka, India to a tiger biologist with WCS (the Wildlife Conservation Society). It documents my efforts at applying sound science and energizing local conservation leaders to protect reserves, while reducing human-tiger conflicts by incentivizing farmers to relocate out of critical tiger habitats.

It is my hope that this half-century look back provides a helpful blueprint for how science, pragmatism, and passionate advocacy can recover wild tigers from the brink and establish their thriving populations even into the future.


K. Ullas Karanth is the Regional Science Director for the WCS Asia Program.

WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.

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