Monday, December 11, 2006

The Sanctuary-ABN AMRO Wildlife Awards 2006

Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.” – Shawshank Redemption

Oft in the midst of noise and haste, one tends to forget that there is a battle going on, a quiet, stealthy battle waged against that which cannot speak in its own defence – Nature. Irreplaceable ecosystems are being lost, too many species are going extinct to keep a count, and others are at the brink of extinction… floods and droughts have become permanent ‘seasons’ across the globe. And in this face of aridity and hopelessness, we have Earth Heroes who give silent Nature a voice, while risking their lives everyday for us. That is what makes them out of the ordinary. They give us hope for a better tomorrow. For our children, and our children’s children… For this, we honour them.

Lifetime Service Award
Romulus Whitaker
: American by birth and Indian at heart, Romulus Earl Whitaker is an inspirational figure who has made an invaluable contribution to wildlife research and nature conservation in India. He arrived as a young boy and did much of his schooling in Kodaikanal where he developed an affinity for the natural world by trekking through the forests of the Palni Hills. He moved back to the U.S. to complete his higher education and after a short stint with the U.S. Merchant Navy, joined the Miami Serpentarium where he learned about venom collection. He returned to India to fulfill his destiny as a world class herpetologist, founding the Snake Park in Guindy in Tamil Nadu and then the very popular Madras Crocodile Bank/Centre for Herpetology in Mahabalipuram, where crocodiles are bred in captivity with the objective of releasing them into the wild.

Wildlife Service Awards
Firoz Ahmed
: Firoz Ahmed is a prolific field biologist whose experience belies his 31 years. Wildlife conservation is at the centre of his life’s purpose. He is an Honorary Wildlife Warden in his home state of Assam. He currently works as a wildlife biologist and environment educator with Aaranyak, in Assam. Ahmed has documented the herpetofauna of the Kaziranga National Park, Orang National Park and a number of community forests in Nagaland and Meghalaya. He also studied the endangered Dark-rumped Swift in Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland.

Praveen Bhargav: Praveen Bhargav, an accomplished wildlifer, has been at the cutting edge of strategic conservation and research in Karnataka since 1979. A passionate advocate for wildlife, he was born in Gwalior, but has spent most of his life in Bangalore. He co-founded Wildlife First, a Bangalore-based advocacy group that helped convince the Supreme Court to wind up the destructive open-cast mining by the Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Limited (KIOCL) in the Western Ghats. This has directly benefitted a number
of endangered species including the endemic lion-tailed macaque. It has also freed the exquisite Bhadra river
from toxic contaminants routinely released by
mining companies.

Dr. Dharmendra Khandal: He is one of the country’s few spider experts, a botanist and field researcher who works with tigers. Employed by Tiger Watch, an NGO founded by Fateh Singh Rathore in Ranthambhore, he is internally driven to protect Rajasthan’s wildlife. His most passionate involvement today is the setting up of an anti-poaching information network in Rajasthan. With colleagues, he has been responsible for several wildlife contraband seizures that have resulted in the arrest of poachers. A conservationist at heart, he is now searching for ways to reform and rehabilitate the families of the dangerous Mogiya tribal poachers.

The Sundarbans Protection Team: The largest delta in the world, the Sundarbans is a hostile land and patrolling it is a Herculean task. But the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve Protection Team, led by their Field Director Pradeep Vyas, has displayed creativity, determination and courage and has brought uncompromising dedication to the task on hand. Their dream is to see a day when the tiger and all species that share its world are truly safe.

Nikhil Padmakar Desai: One of India’s least known, but most effective field-based conservationists, Nitin Desai is Director, Central India with the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI). His association with wildlife issues began in 1987 as a volunteer for WWF’s nature camps. Disturbed by the impact of poaching and the wildlife trade between 1998 and 1999, he worked on a collaborative data gathering project to clamp down on the illegal wildlife trade.

Green Teacher Award
Nishikant Vasudeo Kale and Prakash Muralidhar Laddha:
They work as a team, and their mission is to create a veritable army of young Indians who grow up to respect the Earth. They use the tiger as a symbol for the protection of all wild plants and animals, with the Melghat Tiger Reserve and the Satpura region as their living canvas.Both Prof. Kale and Prakash Laddha are models that good educationists should try to emulate. They are successfully passing the green baton on to generations, even as they fight to protect their vanishing natural heritage.


Young Naturalist Awards
Bajrang Bishnoi:
If this is the face of tomorrow, India has a great green future. He is one of the principal members of a flying squad of Bishnois who are prepared to chase, capture and restrain anyone who dares to poach animals in the vicinity of their villages in Rajasthan. Bajrang belongs to a remote tribal community that has contributed more to wildlife protection than almost any other urban or rural society in India. The Bishnois of Rajasthan are best known for their culture of animal reverence and protection. Young Bajrang Bishnoi follows the footsteps of his elders for whom the teachings of Jambaji, or Jambeshwar Bhagavan guide their every living moment.

Hakabhai Makawana: Young people are understandably attracted to tigers, lions, elephants and rhinos. Hakabhai’s life is governed by less charismatic creatures – vultures. When the Gir Nature Youth Club and the Flamingo Nature Club approached the padavalas (labourers who collect coconuts by climbing trees) of Bhavnagar’s Mahuva District for help with their “Save the Vulture” campaign, Hakabhai a young boy responded instantly.He is now an effective ambassador for vultures, explaining their ecological role to other padavalas who now protect the nests they might once have destroyed.

Sameer I. Kehimkar: He is a snake rescuer who is fast becoming recognised as a crack herpetologist. Sameer Kehimkar is 23 years old and is happiest in the company of the kind of creepy-crawlies that other young persons shun. Snake rescues came naturally to Sameer from his childhood in Navi Mumbai where people often called him to help with snakes that had entered homes and offices. He is already a caecilian and amphibian expert and has helped conduct surveys in Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Wind Under The Wings Award
NDTV, Delhi
NDTV is best known for the high standards it has set for television reporting in the arena of politics, business, sports and entertainment. Yet, one NDTV programme has consistently managed to hold its own in the rough and tumble world of commerce by creating a loyal viewership numbering millions of Indians, young and old – Born Wild.

Story

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