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2017 Whitley Award
Sanjay Gubbi India Terrestrial
Reducing deforestation in Karnataka’s tiger corridors, India

Winner of the Whitley Award donated by WWF-UK

emerging leader

Sanjay saw his first tiger 30 years ago and was instantly captivated. Compelled to pursue his passion, he left his job as an electrical engineer and began working in conservation. Today he is spearheading efforts in Karnataka State, home to 20% of India’s Bengal tigers. A scientist at the Nature Conservation Foundation, Sanjay collaborates with authorities and stakeholders to protect and connect tiger habitats. Working closely with the government, in 2012, Sanjay helped legally secure 2,385 km² of tiger habitat. This represented the largest expansion of protected areas in India since 1970, enhancing connectivity across 23 sites.

tiger corridors

With his Whitley Award, Sanjay is working to reduce forest degradation in two important wildlife sanctuaries which connect multiple protected areas, forming one of the largest contiguous tiger habitats in the country. The area has the potential to support more than 100 tigers and acts as a corridor, allowing individuals to move between territories to prevent inbreeding. Its conservation will also benefit other wildlife including elephants, leopards, pangolins and honey badgers.

reducing pressure

People are central to Sanjay’s approach. Local communities rely on firewood from the forest as fuel for domestic cooking. Through the provision of alternatives to firewood, Sanjay will strengthen protection of these corridors eliminating the need, risk and hardship incurred by people who extract firewood. The introduction of stoves that use alternative energy will reduce indoor air pollution, benefiting the health of women and families. Sanjay will also speed up compensation payments to farmers whose livestock have been lost to tiger and leopard attacks, helping tackle human-carnivore conflict and boosting support of conservation from those living alongside wildlife.

Sanjay’s project will:

  • Scale up distribution of forest-friendly stoves to decrease pressure on tiger corridors and benefit over 1,000 families
  • Empower young people through skill development and training to help them become employed in professions that are not reliant on forest resources
  • Mobilise support for conservation through outreach campaigns
  • Enable people affected by livestock and crop depredation to access government support

Why it matters:

  • There are fewer than 4,000 wild tigers worldwide with approx. 50% living in India
  • Over 100,000 people depend on protected areas for their daily needs and livelihoods where Sanjay works
  • Using alternative energy stoves will reduce smoke inhalation – a major cause of respiratory disease

“Conservation is an art of the possible: with collective efforts and not being afraid to try, we can succeed.”