Five ways we’re protecting one of the world’s ‘hottest’ biodiversity hotspots

Complex problems like biodiversity loss need more than one solution.   

With our partner Holématthi Nature Foundation (HNF), we are supporting conservation work in the Western Ghats, a mountain range covering 1,60,000 sq. kms (62,000 sq. mi) in India and deemed one of eight of the world’s ‘hottest’ biodiversity hotspots by UNESCO, and home to more than 300 globally threatened species.  

Within the Ghats, our critically important work in the wildlife sanctuaries of Cauvery, M M Hills, and Biligiri Rangaswamy involves a mix of different approaches such as research and monitoring, community engagement, outreach programmes, institutional support, conflict mitigation, and policy interventions.   

Here’s a rundown of the diverse ways in which our work with partner HNF is contributing to conservation in the Western Ghats.  

1, All hands on deck (to count wildlife) 

Dr Sanjay Gubbi, Programme Head at the HNF has been called an unsung hero of Bengaluru for going toe to toe with a leopard during a rescue in the city. If you ask him, his team are the real heroes for sorting through disc after disc full of data from wildlife habitats.   

The HNF office is filled with stacks of photo albums, and much like excited and proud parents, the HNF staff will take you through these albums showing you the journeys of leopards and tigers from babies to adulthood across multiple territories.   

Scientific data is essential to monitor wildlife populations, not just the large carnivores like tigers and leopard, but also of prey species like the chital.  

Data allows scientists and conservationists to observe wildlife and chart their behaviour and allows government officials to understand spaces that need protection and direct resources allocation.   

It’s thanks to data tracking the movement of endangered species that we have achieved the largest expansion of Protected Areas in India since the 1970s!   

2. Development can be for conservation 

Local communities who live in eco-sensitive zones like forest fringes are often the most important stakeholders when it comes to conservation. After all, it is their home just as much as the animals’. But learning to share space with large herbivores and carnivores is not easy.   

Communities who have historically lived in and around forests and other wildlife habitats are often as dependent on forest produce for their everyday needs as the local wildlife, increasing the chances of human-wildlife conflict and pressure on resources.  

Which is why our partner, HNF, is working with local communities to help them identify and access smoke-free and economic alternatives to firewood such as energy efficient water boilers, or gas cookstoves. These alternatives allow communities more time to bring in incomes for their families, attend school, and at the same time, minimise their dependence on forest resources, leaving them for the wildlife in the area. 

3. Interactive information for conservation 

Community-spaces can bring about changes in mindset and behaviour, especially when designed to relay information in the most exciting way possible.   

One of HNF’s most exciting interventions has been the development of an interactive information centre for communities living in and around forest fringes. The Nature Information Centre (NIC) is frequented by adults and children alike, and is already changing people’s perceptions of wildlife, as well as their behaviours. You can learn more about the NIC from our blog here!  

4. Support at the frontlines 

The frontline staff of forest departments often put their lives on the line defending wildlife and our wild spaces. HNF offers them and other government officials training for capacity-building in conservation and human-wildlife conflict mitigation, uniforms, and other necessities. Advocating for the welfare of frontline staff is essential to ensure that they are supported in carrying out their duties of protecting and managing our natural resources  

 5. Breaking up (big) cat fights 

It is not enough to get wildlife numbers up, as the team at HNF knows all too well. Wild animals need territory, and if habitats are broken up by human settlements, they are going to wander into these settlements, increasing instances of negative conflict.   

Conflict management between human beings and wildlife requires training and infrastructure which is where HNF comes in, supporting officials with capacity-building workshops and supplementing frontline workers with scientific data to help them make the best decisions on ground.   

Conservation needs a multi-pronged approach, and that is why we are working with HNF to enable wide-ranging efforts to conserve habitats, protect wildlife, and enable coexistence to ensure a sustainable future for our biodiversity.   

Stay updated on our work with HNF and other partners by signing up for our newsletter here!  


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