Winner avatar
2015 Whitley Award
Pramod Patil India Terrestrial
Community conservation of the Great Indian Bustard in India

Winner of the Whitley Award donated by The William Brake Charitable Trust in memory of William Brake

Diminishing range

The Great Indian Bustard is Critically Endangered, having been extirpated from 90% of its former range in India. The largest remaining population is found in the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, a vast landscape of sand dunes, scrublands and grasslands. It is the most densely human-populated desert in the world. Due to poor planning, lack of community involvement, and resulting public opposition to conservation, the Great Indian Bustard has disappeared from four protected areas designated for its conservation. Poaching and habitat loss from livestock grazing and agricultural encroachment have also contributed to its decline.

Pramod Patil (centre) with colleagues

Doctor to conservationist

After his first sighting of the Great Indian bustard in 2003, Pramod Patil, who was a young doctor at the time, made the life-changing decision to leave medicine and dedicate his life to the conservation of this rare bird. Now working for the Bombay Natural History Society, Pramod’s past career has meant he is well equipped to gain the trust and respect of local people living in the Thar Desert and establish the Great Indian Bustard as a flagship for grassland conservation.

Great Indian Bustard

Joined-up thinking

The Great Indian Bustard relies on a mosaic habitat of agro-pastoral land, making landscape-scale conservation essential to its protection. By working with communities and the State Forest Department, Pramod and his team are helping to change opinions, develop positive relationships between authorities and local people, and enable better management of grasslands on which both communities and bustards depend.

Community education

With his project, Pramod will:

  • Increase capacity of the State Forest Department to address poaching issues and set up anti-poaching teams involving local stakeholders.
  • Establish a participatory monitoring network to engage people with conservation and gather crucial data on Great Indian Bustard status, range and threats.
  • Educate communities and raise awareness of government support available for sustainable livelihoods that are in line with conservation efforts.

Why it matters:

  • There are fewer than 250 Great Indian Bustards left in the wild.
  • The probability of extinction within the next three generations is high, so urgent action is needed.
  • Pramod’s integrated approach will bring together civil, governmental and community groups to drive conservation efforts across an area of 500 km².

“Saving pockets of grasslands here and there will not save the species, nor serve the community, and so we need a landscape-level of thinking.”